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Lightning Round: things are spiraling in Edmonton

And the Lightning are getting more healthy.

Edmonton Oilers v Toronto Maple Leafs
TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 5: Mike Smith #41 of the Edmonton Oilers warms up prior to playing against the Toronto Maple Leafs in an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on January 5, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

The Edmonton Oilers are in free-fall right now having only won twice in their last 10 games. They’ve fallen from a solid playoff spot in the Pacific Division to within one point of getting kicked out of the wild card by the LA Kings or Winnipeg Jets. Heck, they could even get dropped by the Vancouver Canucks, who are seventh in the Pacific right now!

How has this all happened? Well, it’s been a combination of a lot of things, like the defense racking up injuries, the goaltending falling apart, and every forward apart from two getting absolutely destroyed on the shot clock every night. However, head coach Dave Tippett and the Oilers media mouthpiece have been ragging on Mikko Koskinen (3.72 GAA) in recent days as a scapegoat, despite Mike Smith (4.20 GAA) having played the worse of the two. That all came to a head yesterday when Koskinen hit back through the Finnish media about getting thrown under the bus by his own coach.

With the team imploding within, and calls for Mike Babcock to rejoin Ken Holland getting louder by the day, Connor McDavid tested positive for COVID putting him out for 10 days.

That meant it was the Leon Draisaitl show for the Oilers as they played the Leafs last night, but they lost 4-2 and were thoroughly beaten for the whole 60 minutes. Draisaitl said after the game that they haven’t quit on anyone, but as for what they’ve actually done, it’s not much. I wrote a recap of the game from the Leafs perspective on our sister site, Pension Plan Puppets, if you want to check it out. William Nylander now leads the Leafs in total points, even-strength points, and game-winning goals.

If this isn’t someone looking for answers and not finding any, I don’t know what is. Imagine being in a lineup as the only player of note, with a couple supporting members, and the rest just chaff.

I don’t know what’s next for the Oilers. Clearly they’re going to try and limp into the playoffs, likely with some trade deadline overpays. I hear they’ve been interested in Ben Chiarot for a long time. After that, it’s probably time to fire the coach. After that, I can’t see much success, so at some point they’re going to have to trade 25-year-old Connor McDavid or 26-year-old Leon Draisaitl and start over. Even with a magical trade button, I bet you couldn’t fix this team.

Lightning Links

Jen (@NHLHistoryGirl), who is a must-follow, asked which trade in NHL history was the biggest thievery. @StrictlyRandy replied with the Andrei Vasilevskiy trade that sent the Detroit Red Wings’ 2012 first round pick to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bolts then used that pick on Andrei Vasilevskiy and the rest was history. Thanks, Detroit, for giving us the best goalie of his generation. Much appreciated.

With the Tampa Bay Lightning finally getting healthy again, including the potential return of the Prodigal Russian Son, the Syracuse Crunch have a new influx of talent for the marathon that is the rest of their regular season. Darren Raddysh was sent back to the Crunch, likely indicating the return of Zach Bogosian as well. And Amir Miftakhov was returned to the Orlando Solar Bears.

“The Tampa Bay Lightning have placed center Riley Nash on waivers today. Earlier in the day, the Lightning also re-assigned defenseman Darren Raddysh from the taxi squad to the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL. While many were speculating that the Raddysh move signaled the return of Kucherov, the waiving of Nash is a much stronger signal that Nikita Kucherov is ready to return to the line-up Thursday night at home against the Calgary Flames.”

The Crunch took that rejuvenated roster to a 2-1 win over the Rochester Americans. Gabriel Dumont and Cole Koepke scored, while Maxime Lagace stopped 17 shots in the win.

Geo also wrote an appreciation post for Ondřej Palat, looking at his whole career as an underrated, but vital top line player for the Bolts. [Raw Charge]

“Ondrej Palat is the best ever seventh-round pick by the Tampa Bay Lightning. At one time, that honor went to Palat’s fellow countryman Pavel Kubina. While they never played together, they did spend one training camp together in Tampa before the 2011-12 season after Palat was drafted. Kubina was a 7th round pick of the Lightning in 1996, 179th overall and finished his NHL career with 386 points in 970 games from the blue line.”

There was a trade in the NHL yesterday, with Alex Nylander getting traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins, while Sam Lafferty went the other way.

Lastly, another NHL star, Elias Pettersson, is also in COVID protocol for the Canucks.