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NHL Winners and Losers After the Christmas Break

Mike Stephens breaks down the winners and losers in the NHL from after the winter break, including stories from St. Louis, Edmonton and Red Deer.
Dave Tippett

This is the NHL, folks, where some become winners and others become losers. 

My job is to identify who fits which criteria each week. And that's exactly what we're going to do today. 

Buckle up. Here are the NHL's winners and losers from after the winter break. 

Winner: Dave Tippett's Realtor

I'm not sure if Dave Tippett owns a house in Edmonton or if he's merely renting. I mean, it's likely the former, given how the average Hockey Man has better job security than a Supreme Court Justice. And if that is indeed the case, then Tippett's realtor is salivating at the chunk of commission they'll get from selling the beleaguered bench boss's humble abode when he inevitably gets fired.

Before I list any stats or dive into the team's roster construction, I want to make it very clear that the Edmonton Oilers are "all-in". This is a team in a contention year, boasting the game's two best pure point-getters atop a roster that is so capped-out, they're nearly $8 million into LTIR. 

I include that caveat to say emphasize this fact: The Oilers are garbage right now. Straight trash. Gobbledygook. 

This team – that, again, has the two best point-getters in the NHL -- currently sits fourth in the league's weakest division with just two wins in their past 13 games.

Why is this happening? 

Well, what did you expect? 

The roster Ken Holland chose to surround his pair of generational talents is pitiful. McDavid and Draisaital are one-two in league scoring with 53 and 53 points, respectively. The next closest Oiler nipping at their heels is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, whose 26 points are exactly half of theirs and includes just three total goals. 

Only two other Oilers have managed double-digit goal totals thus far, Zach Hyman and Jesse Puljujarvi, who both play the bulk of their minutes alongside either Draisaital or McDavid.

And those are just the counting stats. I could go into how the Oilers' expected goals drop off a cliff whenever their dynamic duo steps off the ice, or how their goaltenders are god awful (I'll let Tippett tell you about that one in his next press conference). But that would just bore you. 

Here's the real rub. 

Going into a year in which nothing short of a Stanley Cup bid is acceptable, Holland's vision of a modern-day contender featured Cody Ceci on a four-year deal, trading away a talented young RHD in Ethan Bear, and throwing assets at the Blackhawks for the reanimated corpse of Duncan Keith, and his bloated contract. 

The Oilers deserve every bit of struggle they are experiencing this season. And Tippett's realtor could not be happier. 

Winner: Tony X

I love this dude. So much. 

In just five years, Tony X went from discovering the sport of hockey on Twitter in real-time, to having one of his Tweets inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame (personally, I think they should've gone with 'white people been hiding hockey from us' but I don't get a vote) to being chased down by celebrities like HE'S the famous one. 

Yes, Tony is apparently now on a first-name basis with Don Draper himself. 

I'll let the man tell the story better than I could.  

Follow your dreams, kids. And it just might end with you becoming a professional fan of your favorite team while Jon Hamm rests his dreamy, Emmy-winning head daintily on your shoulder. 

Loser: The Happy Couple Who Got Married at the Cambridge Red Deer Hotel on Dec. 29

Look, love is a beautiful thing that comes in all different forms. 

Love can be a gesture, a song, or a simple spoken word. Love can also be a December wedding at the Cambridge Red Deer Hotel & Conference Centre during a pandemic at the same time as an international hockey tournament while the weather reaches a balmy -29 degrees Celcius. 

Who are we to judge?

What I don't think the happy couple predicted, however, was that the event held to symbolize the eternal promise to love and support one another in both sickness and health for the rest of their lives would also become the killing blow in the death of the 2022 World Junior Championship. 

It's hard to blame them, really. It's not that couples' fault that both events happened to collide at the worst possible time. And it's certainly not their fault that the IIHF didn't think to put its players and staff up in a hotel that wasn't open to the public at the height of a highly infectious variant outbreak. 

Alas, those important footnotes will inevitably become lost to history as the years pass – like tears in the rain. And for that, I can't help but feel for them. 

Loser: Goalies Who Think They Can Play the Puck

Steve Dangle says it best: If you are a goaltender, tend the goal. 

Alas, much like I do whenever he tells me to not get Mad Online™, no one is listening to Steve right now, with the month of December spurring practically every netminder in the NHL into playing the puck like their team's third defenseman, only to get humbled immediately.

This past week brought two of the most egregious examples, in fact. 

Exhibit A comes courtesy of Mackenzie Blackwood, who forgot he was in the middle of a hockey game just as a lengthy dump-in reached his crease, causing him to lazily swat the puck away like a fly circling his lemonade on a hot summer's day, right onto the stick of Washington's Lars Eller who dished it over to Connor Sheary for a quasi-empty-netter. 

Brutal. 

Not as brutal, however, as Brian Elliott's decision to fire a cross-ice breakout pass to no one from his own hash marks that immediately gave Barclay Goodrow a breakaway that he inevitably cashed in on. 

I know it's fun to try new things. But for Pete's sake, guys. STAY IN YOUR NET. 

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