Monday, December 21, 2015

Benny and the Jets...

#Oilers host the Jets tonight where Edmonton lost all three games last year. 


Defense
Your sad sad sad d-pairings for tonight:

Nurse - Schultz
Sekera - Fayne
Nikitin - Gryba

That's right, no Klefbom (knuckle bone), no Davidson (rib), and no Reinhart (in Bakersfield) and now we have Nikitin and Fayne back from Bakersfield. Sekera is the only D-man left that is playing proper defense, and is scoring. Nurse needs to pick it up.
Goalie Talbot starts, so let's pray for Talbot, who has playing better than Nilsson lately, proving this goalie tandem thingy is kinda working. Forwards
Forward lineup same as Saturday against Avs:

Hall - Draisaitl - Purcell
Pouliot - RNH - Eberle
Hendricks - Letestu - Korpikoski
Gazdic - Lander - Pakarinen

Khaira sits. Klinkhammer back on IR (ankle). Poor Klinky.
In other news, AHL prospect Bogdan Yakimov has requested to go to the KHL and leave the Oilers. I guess two Yaks is too many. Yakkity Yak, don't come back. (Pretty good, eh?!)

Standings
Because we can actually talk about this, finally, but it still isn't pretty.

34 games: 14 wins 18 losses 2 shootout losses = 30 points

League: 27th place out of 30, but 1 point from last place.

Conference: 13th place out of 14, but 1 point from last place.

Pacific Division: 6th place out of 7, 1 point behind Anaheim, but Anaheim has 3 games in hand. That said, they are only 3 points behind Vancouver (33 points), who being 3rd place, have the last Pacfiic playoff spot.

Wild Card: With the Central division so strong, obtaining a Wild Card for any Pacific team is pointless.

Tonight vs. Jets
The Oilers have played terrible defense the last couple of games and aren't really getting any scoring going. The Jets are an average team, good at home but not on the road (6-10-1) and are looking on the out for that last wild card spot (6 points out). The Jets always seem like a hungrier team and will surprise the Oilers and pull this one off with a 5-3 win with a empty-netter. Sorry, Oil fans.

The Future
The Oilers have played some strong teams over the past month and because they slipped into a playoff spot for a day, says something positive over previous years. The next pile of games are all against Pacific teams will truly determine the separation in the division and whether the Oilers can move ahead in the standings and grab onto and hold that 3rd place divisional playoff spot.

After tonight they play Vancouver, Calgary, Los Angeles, Anaheim, and Arizona.

Vancouver haven't been playing all that great where Calgary has picked up their game. L.A. just lost big time to Toronto so there's hope. Anaheim, well, it's shocking really how bad they've sucked. Isn't Horcoff on that team? And Arizona has had some rookie firepower in Max Domi, but with goalie Mike Smith out on injury, their future isn't as bright.

Hold on to your helmets, Oilers fans. It's either gonna be good or more losses will pile up and you'll be hearing the name Auston Matthews more and more.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Oilers haven't won in Boston since...

Taylor Hall was 5 years old,
before Connor McDavid was born,
Bill Clinton was President,
Jean Chretien was Prime Minister,
before the "dark times"--before the Lowempire,

Some think Bill wanted those numbers switched around for some reason...

since... November 7, 1996 where they won 6-0 with Czerkawski netting a hat trick.

So who was in the lineup back then when Ron Lowe was coach?  Kevin Lowe was there.  Just look at some of these names.

Doug Weight
Ryan Smyth
Jason Arnott
Mariusz Czerkawski
Kelly Buchberger
Todd Marchant
Mike Grier
Boris Mironov
Rem Murray
Dean McAmmond
Kevin Lowe
Luke Richardson
Petr Klima
Louie DeBrusk
Bryan Marchment
Curtis Joseph

For Boston, some familiar names
Adam Oates, who just told Teddy Purcell to shorten his stick 4 inces.
Rick Tochet
Ray Bourque, who finally went on to win a Cup in Colorado.
and Dwayne Roloson.  Little did he know what the future would hold 10 years later!

That's over 19 years ago.  Wow.  Do you remember what you were doing then?

I do.  I was watching Oilers hockey and reminiscing over the last Cup win six years earlier and wondering when the next one would come.

Yes, we are still waiting.

But do you feel that changing?

I do.  I was at Rexall Place for the Glen Sather banner raising and 80's-style barn burner glorious 7-5 of a game win over Sather's Rangers.  I've been to more games in the last few years than I ever had in all the years before and the energy at end of that third period was absolutely electric in the building.

Can the Oilers of 2015/16 take that 5 win momentum and energy into Boston's Toronto Dominion Garden?

Photo courtesy of the Edmonton Journal
1. Will Taylor Hall smush Zdeno Chara's face again?  No. But he'll Deke around Chara's slow legs and pop one over Rask's mask.

2. Will Cam Talbot get the start?  Yes.

3. Will the return of Nikita Nikitin mess up the defense?  Yes, a little.  We miss Klefbom already.

4. Will former Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli get his revenge in his old barn?   See the winning goal in the answer in question #1 above!

GO OILERS GO!
Make it 6 in a row!








Friday, December 11, 2015

Eakins vs. McLellan

#Oilers comparables between last season and this season up to Dec 9th.

Image courtesy of the Edmonton Journal

Oilers through Dec. 9:
Eakins 2014- 2015McLellan 2015- 2016Diff.Better Under Eakins or McLellanComment
Games Played28291--
Record7-15-512-15-2+5,0,-3
McLellan
Not being in last has a psychological effect and given confidence to the team, knowing they are not far from a playoff spot.
League Rank30 (last)246
Points19267
Goals Per Game2.202.520.32McLellanMcDavid's early points with Hall and Draisaitl tearing it up have pushed this up.
Goals-Against Per Game3.402.93-0.47McLellanDespite more youth, McLellan's d-system is better, and Nilsson's goaltending has been better
Goals For/Against Differential-1.20-0.410.79McLellan
Total Goals For627311McLellan
Total Goals Against9585-10McLellan
Total Goals Differential-33-1221McLellan
Power Play Goals %12.9018.505.60McLellanNumber of powerplays is down.
Penalty Kill Goals %80.0080.900.90McLellanThis one needs to improve.
Power Play Goals % vs. Penalty Kill Goals Against % Diff.-7.10-0.606.50McLellanA 6.5% overall improvement in special teams, isn't much but it's the right direction
One-Goal Game Record4-5-57-6-2+3,+1,-3
McLellan
This one is psychological. The coach will deploy certain lines and McLellan's line matchups have been much improved.
One-Goal Game PPG0.931.070.14
Scoring First Record5-4-19-6-0+4,+2,-1
McLellan
Again, scoring first psychologically gives you confidence and momentum.
Scoring First PPG1.101.200.10
Leading After 2 Periods Record4-0-25-0-0+1,0,-2
McLellan
This is very telling. Again, confidence and momentum are huge here.
Leading After 2 Periods PPG1.672.000.33
Overtime/Shootout Record0-56-2-1
McLellan
Wow. There's the difference right there. Oilers are amazing at the 3 on 3, as predicted by many.
Overtime/Shootout PPG01212
Shots For Per Game Average28.428.60.2McLellan
The Eakins stats include the Nelson stats for the whole year. I wasn't able to find up to Dec 9 on this from last year. That said, McLellan is on the same pace. So what's the difference? This tells me that McLellan doesn't carry as much water (ha!) with Corsi. There have been games where the Oilers prevent shots but games were still close. And so confidence in your goalie is everything here.
Shots Against Per Game Average30.030.40.4McLellan
Short For vs. Against Per Game Diff.-1.6-1.8-0.2Eakins

So, really, there is no comparison that Todd McLellan has been a more successful coach.

The big difference here is the winning the close games.  How is that done?  Well, coaching. Coaching that makes the players believe in themselves.

I also think a big turnaround was when Leon Draisaitl was called up and didn't get off to a great start. Taylor Hall told him he was a good player and to relax and have fun.  Then, BOOM!  The Dr. Drai - Hallsy show exploded.

Yes, we can definitely thank Anders Nilsson for his goaltending prowess.  Keep in mind his GGA and Save % are just above the league average, so there's more to it here.

I also stand corrected in that Nurse and Draisaitl should have been on the team day one.  They have been tops in their positions and could have made a difference early on enough to squeeze some more wins.

With that in mind, the team is much younger this year with way less experience on defense, especially.  Not having Nikitin start and sending him down, keeping Ference benched, sending down Reinhart, and now sending Fayne down is a stark message to the rest of the defense.

I also like that McLellan has put grinders on the top lines.  Hendricks and Klinkhammer (remember him?) played with Hall and Draisaitl on the first line.  We've even seen Pakarainen in the top six and now Jujhar Khaira has joined Nuge and Eberle giving them that extra umph.

I've said it all along, having a grinder with a complimentary pair is the winning combination.  While Purcell isn't a super grinder, he knows how to get the puck and has been better at it since Adam Oates told him to cut his stick by 4 inches (that hurts just saying it!).

It's what Glen Sather used to do with the Boys on the Bus.

And tonight, the Oilers raise his banner proudly into the rafters.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Vet d-man Mark Fayne on waivers

 #Oilers #Oilersnation . D-man Mark Fayne was put on waivers today for the purpose of reassignment to the Bakersfield Condors.

Why, you ask?  Look no further than David Staples stats on Grade "A" Chances Per 15 Minutes (Plus/Minus).

Nurse    -0.58
Schultz  -0.58
Gryba    -0.66
Davidson -0.75
Reinhart -0.83
Klefbom  -0.86
Sekera   -0.91
Fayne    -1.85
Ference  -1.90

Fayne is in Ference territory and his game against Dallas was atrocious, with guys beating him multiple times.  He's simply not fast enough.

Remember that Nikitin and Fayne were brought in by MacT to steady-up the defense and now McLellan doesn't have them or Ference on the team anymore, including goalie Scrivens.

Yes, Reinhart was sent down, but look for him to be brought back up again.

Man that's a lot of MacT cap coin buried in the AHL or on "Injured Reserve":

Nikitin  $3.5m
Fayne    $3.6m
Ference  $3.2m
Scrivens $1.3m
Total:  ~$11.8m

Remember that Fayne and Ference still have years left on their contracts.  Nikitin and Scrivens are UFA, so look for buyouts on F&F, unless some team claims Fayne in the next day.

This leaves the d-core at:

Nurse (L) - Sekera (L)
Klefbom (L) - Gryba (R)
Davidson (L) - Schultz (R)
Reinhart

I believe all the guys on the left side have earned their spot--especially Davidson, who continues to impress all of us.  I like cheering for players like that--who've worked hard and battled through a broken system to earn his rightful place on a team.  And I like to see him on the powerplay as well.

Essentially, what we are seeing here is an actual overhaul of the mistakes made in the past by bad scouting, bad development, and bad contracts for bad players.

There's still more work to be done to correct the errors in judgment made, but from this we can tell that this season has been admittedly proven that Rebuild 1.0 and 2.0 didn't work at all and Rebuild 3.0 is underway, but for real this time.






Monday, November 23, 2015

Trade the Nuge?

 #Oilers #OilersNation

Since Islanders top 4 right-shot d-man Travis Hamonic requested a trade to Western Canada for personal reasons, trade speculation has been all over the map. 


First the Jordan Eberle trade rumours amped up again.  After being injured for a pile of games and since coming back, while it took him some games to get going, he appears to be back to his old scoring self.  Also keep in mind he hasn't played with McDavid yet--something I think we all want to see.


Then over the weekend, we heard talk that because centre/winger Neon Leon Dr. Drai Draisaitl was lighting it up with by far the best points per game in the league at 1.70ppg playing both winger and centre with Hall, that when McDavid returns, the Oilers will have an abundance of top 6 centres and the odd-man out in order to trade for a top d-man will be Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.


What a ridiculous notion. Why?  Many reasons:


- Pundits trying to draw attention for viewership, so much so, I'm not gonna quote them
- Nuge is by far the best two-way player on the team
- Nuge has not peaked--he has huge upside potential
- Nuge has many years left on his contract at $6m/per, a great deal if you look at it
- Nuge makes players around him better


If any trade is going to happen, look no further than:


- Nikita Nikitin, Ben Scrivens, Anton Lander, blah blah blah


- Nail Yakupov -- he only plays better with a good centre.  Even coach McLellan said Yak needs to create his own chances and not just rely on a good centre like Roy last year or McDavid.  He's a winger.  Generally, centres can play wing.  Wingers can't play centre.  His value is under $3m.


- Teddy Purcell -- since Adam Oates told him to cut his stick by 4 inches (there's a joke in there somewhere, you rascals!) he's been on a 1ppg pace, which only ups his value.  He's $4.5m/year and some have suggested resigning him, but he's a third-line winger.


- Justin Schultz -- I think he's reached a ceiling in his development.  He's on a one year like Yak.  Many don't think he has the force to be an all-round top 4 defender.


Maybe Chiarelli has offered Yakupov and Schultz to Garth Snow in a package with picks for Travis Hamonic.  I think it's worth it as Hamonic solves a lot of issues in our top 4 defense right-side.  Is he the all-elusive top 2 guy we all crave?  No, but it's a big improvement as far as solid defense.


As far as the top 9 healthy forwards for now, think of three interchangeable scoring lines with pairs and a checker.


Hall - Draisaitl - Purcell
Hendricks - Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle
Pouliot - McDavid - Yakupov
Korpikoski - Letestu - Klinkhammer

Out: Pakarinen, Gazdic, Lander, Slepyshev

So, trade the Nuge?  Not when you can have that top 9 for a couple more seasons.




Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Oilers continue uphill battle

 #Oilers #OilersNation . The fact that Darnell Nurse and Leon Draisaitl have been called up goes to show that the roster veterans are not adequate support.
 
For Nurse to be playing ahead of Nikitin, Ference, and Fayne points the back-end blame on the previous management completely unable to build a consistent and capable defensive core.
 
For Draisaitl, who has been playing brilliantly, certainly is far better than he was in last year's 37 game but few points debacle.
 
The stats show the Oilers are slightly better than last year in pretty much every category, but I have argued it is not enough to get them over the hump, and the standings show, it hasn't made any real difference.  Having Connor McDavid injured only exhasterbates that reality.
 
So in looking at the players that have improved from last year, we find (+7):
  • 1LW - Taylor Hall
  • 1C- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
  • 1RW/2C - Leon Draisaitl
  • LD - Brandon Davidson
  • LD - Oscar Klefbom
  • LD - Darnell Nurse
  • G - Laurent Brossoit 
 
Players who are the same (without McDavid):
  • 2LW - Benoit Pouliot
  • 2RW - Nail Yakupov
 
Players who are the same in general:
  • 2RW/3RW - Jordan Eberle
  • 3LW/RW - Teddy Purcell
  • 3LW/4LW - Matt Hendricks
  • 4RW - Rob Klinkhammer
  • 4LW - Luke Gazdic
 
Players who have been worse (-8):
  • 3C - Anton Lander
  • 4C - Andrew Miller
  • 4RW - Iiro Pakarinen
  • RD - Mark Fayne
  • RD - Justin Schultz
  • LD - Andrew Ference
  • LD - Nikita Nikitin
  • G - Ben Scrivens
 
Now comparing replacement players:
  • 2C - Connor McDavid has been a massive improvement over 2C - Derek Roy (+2)
  • 3C/4C - Mark Letestu has been about the same as 4C - Boyd Gordon
  • 3LW - Lauri Korpikoski has been about the same as anyone else on the 3rd line
  • 3RW - Anton Slepyshev has not been an improvement over others previously
  • RD - Eric Gryba has been a slight improvement over LD - Mark Fraser (+1)
  • LD - Andrej Sekera has been about the same, if not worse than RD - Jeff Petry (-1)
  • LD - Griffin Reinhart has been slight improvement over Nikita Nikitin, but not enough although he'll improve (+0.5)
  • G - Cam Talbot has been about the same as Ben Scrivens, below average (-1)
  • G - Anders Nilsson has been better than Viktor Fasth, and arguably better than Cam Talbot (+1)
 
Taking the accumulated net score, in comparing these players from last year to this we only get +0.5.
 
A good coach, like McLellan is, can only take a player so far in his development.  It falls on the player ultimately if he wants to improve.  And if the player isn't improving, then management needs to look at alternatives.  What I've seen is McLellan and Chiarelli got a quick first impression of many of these players and decided that it would be better to develop players in the NHL that had potential for improvement--particularly Draisaitl, Nurse, Klefbom, Reinhart, and arguably Yakupov, and call the other vets a wash, even if it means benching them (Ference, Fayne), or sending them down (Nikitin, Scrivens).  The difficulty is in giving them value for a trade, but it appears Chiarelli is going to burn down the old barn if need be.


The Oilers have been "in" more games so far comparatively to last year and aren't getting blown out as much.


At this point, to get over the hump we've been all dying for, here are the gaps (if team is healthy):


Forwards:
Hall - Nugent-Hopkins - Draisaitl/Eberle
Pouliot - McDavid - Eberle/Yakupov
Hendricks - ???/Draisaitl - Yakupov/Eberle/???
Klinkhammer - ??? - ???


Which means Lander, Korpikoski, Gazdic, Miller, Slepyshev, Pakarinen aren't taking this team to the next level.

Defense:
Sekera - ???
Klefbom - ???
Nurse - ???
Reinhart
Davidson


Which means there are too many left-shot defensemen, and right-shot guys like Fayne, Schultz, and Gryba have not been good enough, and obviously Ference and Nikitin need to be moved.  I still get the feeling Davidson will get the short end of the stick and be moved in a package, which is really too bad.  That said, McLellan doesn't seem to care much what hand a guy shoots with.  There is only 1 veteran on that entire d-squad I list above, meaning, it will take a few years until the youngsters get to playoff-level.


Goalies:
???
Nilsson 
Brossoit

Which means Talbot needs to take a backseat to Nilsson and they obviously need to let Scrivens go.

With that amount of work for management to do, I'm not hopeful that we'll get many bonafide NHLers pop out of other teams.  I wouldn't worry so much about the forwards at this time and focus on improving the defense, which is usually best done through landing a big name UFA or through development.  Seeing that there are no real right-shot defensemen being developed, drafting new and developing would always be smart to do, but the most prudent thing to do is to land a UFA.  

UFA right-shot d-men available in 2016 that come to mind are:
Erik Johnson
Dustin Byfuglien

How much do you miss Petry now, eh?

 

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Price is wrong - Oilers beat Habs once again

 #OilerNation #Oilers #NHL Since the Oilers' first rebuild in 2010 with the addition of Taylor, here's the record against the Montreal Canadiens.  (With winning goalie and game-winning goal player)


ROAD 01DEC2010 4-3OTW Dubnyk, Penner
HOME 17FEB2011 4-1  W Khabibulin, Eberle
ROAD 08NOV2011 3-1  W Khabibulin, Gilbert
HOME 08MAR2012 3-5  L Budaj, Eller
ROAD 24OCT2013 4-3  W Dubnyk, Jones
HOME 24OCT2014 3-0  W Scrivens, Pouliot
ROAD 12FEB2015 4-3  W Fasth, Lander

HOME 29OCT2015 4-3  W Talbot, Draisaitl


That is a pretty good 7-1 record by the Oilers against the Canadiens, who've had a pretty good team since that time and are currently the supposed best team in the league, record-wise.


I was at the game and the Oilers didn't have the jump in their game that the Habs did for the first two periods, who were up 3-0 on the Oil.


That was until Leon Draisaitl (who shall be hereafter referred to as Dr. Drai) put the puck over the line near the very end of the 2nd period.  And I'm reading it was Taylor Hall who told Drai on the bench, "Let's go. You're a good player."  That alone may have given them the momentum in the third period, which they dominated on the shot board and then 3 more goals.


With 3 minutes left, I was saying to my buddy, "If this goes to OT, Oilers will win the 3 on 3."  Then with under a minute left, Dr. Drai dishes out the medication.


What's amazing is Dr. Drai got called up because of cap issues and having to put Ebs on LTIR, so they first called up Pitlick and LaLeggia but they didn't come because of cap or something.  I gotta tell ya, that was some smart management there.


Then having the gaul to put the good Doctor on the top line right side with Hall and Nuge was bold.  And he scores not once, but twice!   


Also notable was Brandon Davidson, who has a howitzer of a shot, and Darnell Nurse who played excellent defense.


Now I don't have to mention that McDavid chip-pass to Pouliot do I?  Amazing.  McDavid might have the best speed and stickhandling anyone has ever seen, but his positioning on PK Subban in the neutral zone to then get on the right side of the puck to have the hands to chip pass it, is just on a whole other level.  McDavid is now 6th in NHL scoring with a 1.09 ppg average and a 1.57 ppg average in his last 7 games.  Say what?!











Thursday, October 29, 2015

Oilers GM Chiarelli sees clearly

 #OilersNation #Oilers #NHL

After his promised 10 games assessment milestone, Oilers' President of Hockey Ops and GM Peter Chiarelli had some direct comments about the team.  While I was reading it on my phone, I thought it was practical Hallowe'en joke or something by a fan impersonating what he'd want to hear from a GM.  Alas, no.  It was Chia Pete himself.

Link here.

Essentially:
  • It sucks Ebs has been injured and after trying to use Hendricks on the top line, he got injured, then Klinkhammer, who got injured
  • Slepyshev needs to deliver more and he will likely get sent down
  • Goalies have been good, despite a bad game by Nilsson
  • Bottom 6 has been inconsequential and disappointing--hello Anton Lander and Teddy Purcell, we are talking to you!
  • Connor McDavid has been outstanding and has elevated the games of linematesYak n Pouliot, which will only get better
  • The defense... oh boy, the defense.  We've talked about this to death.  We need a legit top pairing, blah blah, we miss Pronger, shoudn't have traded Petry, blah blah.  But what I'm not seeing comments about is proper pairings, i.e. a puck-handler and a stay-at-home guy.  Klefbom-Schultz is two puck handlers and really no stay-at-home guy.  The current pairings should be:  Sekera-Fayne, Klefbom-Gryba, Davidson-Nurse.  Gryba thinks he's a puck handler and hell no. It's why he's making so many mistakes.  Guy is big and mean. 
What's very refreshing is that Chiarelli means business and doesn't beat around the bush. He's direct, he communicates well, as does coach McLellan, and thus the players know exactly where they stand and where they need to improve.  There's no false sense of security here.

Most of all--we finally have a GM that thinks the same way all of us armchair bloggers do.

And with that, look for some trades coming end of November to improve the defense. Because with Nurse now here, likely permanently, something's gotta give with one of the left-side defensemen. It won't be Sekera or Klefbom.  Davidson and/or Nikitin will need to go.  On offense, all signs point to Purcell getting the boot and as I've been saying for a while, Anton Lander.


Monday, October 26, 2015

Game 9: Kings 3 Oilers 2 - Refs rob Oilers of tie goal

We've all seen the photos by now.

1. With 5 seconds left, McDavid backhands the puck across the goal line, and Jonathan Quick's big glove covers the puck while it crosses the line.

2. The ref at the net points to an actual goal.  McDavid says so too.

3. The other ref comes over and waives it off.

4. The play goes for video review with the NHL War Room in Toronto.

5. Sportsnet only showed opposite TV camera angle only once, then all other angles show the above net camera. From that, while we know the puck is under Quick's glove, we can't see the puck from that angle. But from the other angles not shown by Sportsnet, it's clear.

6. Ref comes back and say "The call on the ice stands. No goal."  Yet the ref closest to the net originally actually pointed at the puck and called it a goal.

Was this a case of one of the refs being more assertive than the other to overturn him on the spot, or was there something more to it?  We'll never know.  But I but the refs know they made a mistake and this one to two points lost could come back to haunt them.

I understand that the NHL can't use any camera angle but the overhead cam so a parallax view doesn't occur.  That said, it's stupid.  They should use all angles at their disposal and have 3 judges agree.

But let's not forget a couple other bad calls.  Late in the 3rd, Benoit Pouliot gets a mean cross check to the back from Drew Doughty, there's no call, but a Kings two on one ensues.  Not soon after, Oilers' winger Lauri Korpikoski supposedly grabs a King's player's stick behind the net and gets called for holding the stick.  Kings score on the powerplay in one of their typical garbage goals to put them up 3-2.

Then the McDavid goal gets waived off at the 19:55 mark and Oilers lose 3-2.

To say the Oilers got screwed is an understatement.

But they should have won that game.  Cam Talbot let in a softy and the power play goal shouldn't have happened.  With the way might have played out, the score should have been 2-1 Oilers.

That said, I'm surprised the Kings didn't score more against an Oilers defense that still has a lot of room for improvement. We know that.  We also know the Kings suck at offense and only like to score when they have to.

The Oilers defense again really struggled to gain the puck and when they did, they had difficulty getting the puck up the ice and the puck died with shoot-ins or good checks.

Justin Schultz left the game with a supposed illness or something.  We don't know. I'd like to say a lot of things right now, but I'll leave it alone. 

Eric Gryba, the supposed amazing puck handler, made a soft pass at the blue line which was intercepted and a goal ensued shortly thereafter.  Check that, the score should have been 2-0 Oilers.

After the Capitals lose on Friday, I was glad to hear coach Todd McLellan publicly call out 4-5 players in general for not showing up and that the Oilers make stupid mistakes.,

Despite the refs in the Kings game, McLellan was proven right again.



Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Game 7: Red Wings vs. Oilers

 #Oilers #OilersNation You'd have to think Connor McDavid would have been excited about playing against legendary players like Pavel Datsyuk.  But, alas, Pavel still injured.

What's exciting for us is seeing #97 quickly adapt to the much higher-level game than he's been used to.  Even though we are only 6 games in, they've been against tough teams, and the butterflies appear to have flown away.  His learning curve isn't as steep as many other players and as each game progresses and he actually plays against top players, he will only up his game to their level sooner than most.

Many have compared Nugent-Hopkins to Datsyuk, but when you see McDavid split defensemen with poise and grace, you can only think of him being "Datsyukian".

What will we call McDavid's magic moves then other than McDavid-like?

"McDavidian"?  Reminds me of the "Branch Davidian" compound of David Koresh in Waco, Texas.  So, no.

"McDavidish"?  Too close to MacTavish and we need less and less of that.

"McMagic"?  Too Magic Johnson perhaps?

"Big Mac D"?  Oh, I give up.

Many would like to end the McJesus moniker.  So would I.  Ryan Smyth was and will always be the Oilers Jesus.

Or maybe his name just stands alone and we just say, "Wow! That was a classic 'Connor McDavid' move."

Oil & Gas Hockey has just learned that 60 Minutes of all things will be doing a feature on Connor McDavid, something they've been working on for 18 months now.  This will mean Edmonton gets some exposure.  Or maybe not.

I'll be at the game tonight, so we'll see first-hand if Datsyuk needs to pass the torch.

Oilers line-up:  Hendricks on IR so Andrew Miller called up for Slepyshev/Klinkhammer on the top line. Gazdic sits.  Reinhart injured so likely Ference is in.
 
Hall-Nuge-Miller
Pouliot-McDavid-Yakupov
Korpikoski-Lander-Purcell
Slepyshev-Letestu-Klinkhammer
 
Klefbom-Schultz
Sekera-Fayne
Gryba-Ference
 
Talbot

Red Wings:

Abdelkader-Zetterberg-Larkin
Nyquist-Sheahan-Tatar
Helm-Richards-Pulkkinen
Miller-Glendening-Ferraro
 
Kronwall-Ericsson
DeKeyser-Green
Quincey-Kindl
 
Mrazek

This is going to a fast-passed possession game and the first Eastern Team on the schedule.  Don't forget, it's also Coach McLellan's old team where he assisted behind Mike Babcock.  While they have a new coach, I think Todd McLellan will out-coach them.  (Also note Detroit's AHL coach is former Oilers coach Todd Nelson.)  Enough Todd's for ya?

If you see me at the game in a signed Eberle jersey with Oilers hat, that's me.  Yeah, good luck with that!



Friday, October 16, 2015

Oilers lack of a top d-pair continue to hold back everything

. Until Chiarelli can get two, not one, TWO legitimate top VETERAN defensemen, we will continue to see the losses.  Let's look at the current crop of crap.

We thought Andrej Sekera was "the guy" and we were so please he decided to come here.  After watching him over the last three games, I can assure you that he's not.  He's a 3rd/4th defensemen at best.  I have not been impressed with the puck handling and initial passes.  He's not bad at checking and taking the man, but he has old Petry brainfarts once in a while.

Mark Fayne has been below average in my opinion and not playing up to his potential.  But he's a right-shot defensemen, which is rare to find. He's a 4th/5th defensemen in reality.

Oscar Klefbom, with his big shiny contract, has been the best of the bunch, yet one of the youngest.  His bomb of a shot netted him a goal the other night.   You can tell though that he gets dragged down by whomever his partner is.  He has the potential to be a legitimate 2nd pairing d-man on any team. Which brings us to...

Justin Schultz with his good no-look puck handling lacks in umph on the defensive side of the puck. I'd relegate him to power play and offensive zone special teams, rather than be a reliable defenseman in our own zone. And keep him off the penalty kill, please. 

The above should be the 2nd and 3rd pairings respectively--meaning, there's a gaping hole in a legitimate top pair.  What else is new?  Which brings us to "the rest"...

Andrew Ference, despite his fitness level, we all know he's losing his legs and is top candidate for a buyout. 

Eric Gryba, a big crushing guy with some skill, his zone exits right in front of the net make me bloody cringe.  His passing is terrible.

Griffin Reinhart has potential to be a solid 3rd pairing guy--just needs more experience and a better partner.

Brandon Davidson has to be better or risks waivers.  I don't see Nurse being called up this year, until Nikitin and Ference get moved or bought out, so Davidson might ride the year playing every other game to up his value for a package trade deal.

There's no doubt now.  The 2015-16 season is a big transition one for the entire Oilers organization.  Prez/GM Chiarelli has a lot of work to do still to rid the fat cat contracts of the past and develop prospects properly and add good veteran talent.

Before we get to that, can we finally and actually close the book on the goaltending situation and not call it a situation anymore--at least for this year?  Talbot has been superb in his 3 games and while Nilsson had a couple doozies, he still saved 50 shots with calmness and excellent positioning.  He'll adjust.

There are a couple holes with the forwards, but part of it may have been solved by adding Matt Hendricks to the top line with Hall and Nuge.  That said, Hendricks isn't a right-shot, so passing and streaking up the ice doesn't fit here, otherwise, I liked what Hendy was doing--hitting and freeing up the puck for Nuge.

With Hendy on the top line, putting Slepyshev on the 4th line appeared to work really well.  But unless Gazdic is mucking it up, which he hasn't been, Klinkhammer is a better choice.

Purcell is not a top 6 guy anymore, and watching Yakupov try to gel with McDavid, I didn't see it.  I think I'm giving up on Yak.  How he didn't see Spezza on the backcheck to pick him up is beyond me.  Also, Yak is SUPPOSED to be the guy to bury a breakaway, but he didn't--then didn't backcheck properly.  His value is dropping and dropping fast.  I honestly don't see how Chiarelli keeps him around.

Lander is useful and very versatile, but he's expendable in a trade for a top pair d-man--plus it opens a roster spot for Draisaitl.

By the end of the season, the roster holes should be:

Hall-Nuge-Eberle
Pouliot-McDavid-???
Korpikoski-Draisaitl-???
Hendricks-Letestu-???

???-???
Sekera-Fayne
Klefbom-???
Reinhart

Talbot
Nilsson
Brossoit

And I have full confidence that Chiarelli gets this--unlike the past.  And that to me, is the biggest difference.

Until then, LET GO, OILERS, LET GO!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Let go Oilers, let go!

 #Oilers rebuild 3.0 is underway. Here are some hard truths:

- Cam Talbot is not proven. He's a gamble. Brossoit could be the guy but I see Nilsson and Laurikainen being the future tandem. 

- The defense is still no where near complete and no better off than the start of last year, really, if not less experienced, which will again eat away at the starting goalie. 

- The top 9 lacks gritty supporting players to the core save maybe Pouliot. Purcell is being showcased obviously, so if you don't understand that and think Yak deserves first line minutes, then you don't get how asset management works.  Lander needs to be moved to make room for Draisaitl at centre. Not wing. Centre. 

- There are 7/12 forwards with five or less years in NHL experience:  Nuge, Hall, McDavid, Slepyshev,Yakupov, Lander, Gazdic

- There are 4/6 defensemen with three years or less in NHL experience:  Klefbom, Schuktz, Gryba, Reinhart

- There are 2/2 goalies with less than a season: Talbot, Nilsson

The only real two way forwards are Pouliot, Nuge, Lander, Hendricks, and Letestu.  

- The only real complete defensemen are Sekera and Klefbom to a degree.

So if you think this team will be able to compete on all 200 feet of the ice, you are sadly mistaken. 

Sorry fans, not this year either.

Let go. Let go.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Will Darnell and Leon make the team?

#Oilers #OilersNation - 
Or do they start in the AHL?

I believe the answer isn't whether they should be on the team, because they will, eventually, but it really comes down to asset and cap management.

On Draisaitl, many believe he's on the team in October and the forward lines are:

Pouliot - Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle
Hall - McDavid - Purcell
Draisaitl - Lander - Yakupov
Korpikoski - Letestu - Hendricks

But there you have Klinkhammer, Pitlick, and Gazdic on one-way contracts with Anton Shlepeshev now around as an AHLer as well, and Andrew Miller, etc.

Then there's that fat Purcell $4.5 million contract just waiting to explode into 4.5 million tiny puck pieces.  He's UFA at the end of the year so the sooner you trade him the better.

With that, I strongly believe Peter Chiarelli will want Purcell to play with Hall and McDavid, get lots of points, and up his value for a trade for draft picks and a cap dump come December.  Meanwhile Draisaitl will have gained a lot of confidence and skill in Bakersfield so he can easily slide into the wing or centre the 3rd line and move Lander to the left wing.

For Nurse, there's a lot of competition on defense now.. finally, but waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too many left-shot guys (which is why it made total sense to trade Petry, right?)

Sekera - Fayne
Klefbom - Schultz
Nikitin - Ference
Reinhart - Gryba
Nurse - Davidson

"Somebody gonna get hurt (i.e. traded) real bad!"  And that someone is Nikitin with this equally fat ass contract.  But again, look for Chiarelli to up his value with play time and trade that monkey for a whole pile of pucks and things.

With Purcell and Nikitin gone, you have cleared up $9 million dollars.  NINE MILLION.  Now, you can aggressively go after that elusive top defensemen and trade those picks to a team that also needs to dump salary.

And yes, I'm thinking Seabrook.  Of course I am.  Who isn't?  But that whole Kane thing is now up in the air and the rumour is the Hawks are entertaining trading him, which clears a bazzillllion dollars for the Hawks so they can resign Seabrook.

My point is, Chiarelli needs to manage assets and cap space to make room and up values of players by giving them minutes and shiny things like McDavid.

Because if Purcell and Nikitin don't up their game, their value drops dramatically and their wives will be pissed!  The Oilers don't need them now that they've loaded up on decent assets, so it's do or die.

And that new incentive at training camp and pre-trade deadline is something the Oilers didn't really have before in a long time.

So with that, unless Chia Pete can trade those guys right off the bat for value picks, you dump them. 

It's not that Nurse or Draisaitl don't deserve to be on the team--I think they do, but they're pretty much still rookies and the Oilers don't exactly have a lot of senior veterans.  That aside, I maintain Draisaitl and Nurse will start the year in Bakersfield--dominate the heck out of the league there, then get called up when Purcell and Nikitin get dumped, which I predict will be around November/December.

You heard it here first folks!



Thursday, July 23, 2015

Oilers line-up - Has it really improved?

Let's compare the end of the last year with the opening lineup this coming season. Why? Because we're bored, and need to reassess and assess and reassess and think and think and hope and dream.

When Ron McLean says the Oilers will win the Cup in 3-4 years, people should listen.  The guy is a walking computer.  He's from Red Deer so deep down, he's an Oilers fan.  They need to get him back on TV more.  He is the master.

Ok, enough with the McLean stroking. (there, I said it, happy?)  Now there were some injuries last year and lot of line shuffling, but this is essentially what the season ended with on a healthy basis.

FORWARDS

End of 2014/2015
Pouliot - Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle
Hall - Roy - Yakupov
Fraser - Lander - Purcell
Hendricks - Gordon - Klinkhammer

Derek Roy celebrates with Jeff Petry and Nail Yakupov.  Image courtesy TSN.ca
There are 3-4 replacements on there to today.

McDavid replaces Roy - UPGRADE.  Roy has experience and helped Yak, but he's small and not as skilled as McDavid, that's for sure.  The Anointed One will certainly have a bigger impact than Roy, even though Roy had a bigger impact than Gagner in his latter year with the Oil.  But still, they're Hobbits.  McDavid is not.  I'm curious as to the two-way play of McDavid to see if it improves the consistently leaky 2nd line.  Leak leak.  They're like green onions, but bigger.  Oilers need to be more like green onions.  Smaller leaks.  Get it?  No?  Too far?  Nevermind.

Korpikoski replaces Fraser - UNKNOWN.  Fraser had a good run at the end with some goals. Korp has speed and skill but we'll see about the umph and consistency.  They're certainly paying him enough.  I'm not even sure I spelled his last name correctly.  If I didn't, oh well, what are you going to do about it?  You didn't even know, so there.

Letestu replaces Gordon - EVEN.  This was a cap dump although it was spent on Korp.  I said it last year that Gordon is a 4th liner making a 3rd line wage.  Letestu is good but not great on the dot, but has more two-way skill than Gordon.  I think it also cuts down on the number of bench changes as Gordon pretty much would take faceoffs then head off.  That said, Gordon and Hendricks were one of the top checking lines in the league.  Rarely would a team get by them.  I hope Letestu gets Le Testie.  Not even Gene Principe is going to use that play on words.  But don't be surprised if he does.

Start of 2015-2016
Pouliot - Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle
Hall - McDavid - Yakupov
Korpkoski - Lander - Purcell / Pitlick
Hendricks - Letestu - Klinkhammer / Gazdic

Mark Letestu with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Image courtesy of the Associated Press

So what of Draisaitl?   I think the smart move is to play him in Bakersfield.  If he starts dominating at the AHL level, then you can easily trade Purcell or Pitlick at the deadline to make room.  Purcell would be preferred as he's a $4m hit. Pitlick is injury-prone so this year is do or die for him. But that 3rd line is certainly a little faster than last year.  Here's to Lander for picking up his game.  If Drats shows gusto, Lander may land somewhere else.  (h/t to Gene).

DEFENSE

Near End of 2014/2015
Ference - Petry
Klefbom - Schultz
Marincin - Fayne
Nikitin (IR) / Aulie / Davidson

There are several replacements.

Sekera replaces Petry - UPGRADE.  I always liked Petry, but he's a 2nd/3rd pairing in Montreal where Sekera is a 2nd/1st pairing in general.  While Sekera is a left shot and Petry a right shot, for skill, Sekera is a top D with more experience and umph than Petry, who tended to leak chances.  At least we won't hear Gene say "Petry dish" anymore. 

Reinhart replaces Marincin - UNKNOWN.  I would say that Reinhart has more heart (see what I did there, Gene!), but Marincin has more experience.  Reinhart is not proven yet and I don't see him on the opening lineup but in Bakersfield where he'll have to prove himself.  

Gryba replaces Aulie - UPGRADE.  Gryba can skate and is pretty tough.  Aulie Aulie Oxenfree cannot skate.  (Screw you, Gene, I got this!) 

Start of 2015-2016
Sekera - Fayne
Klefbom - Schultz
Ference - Gryba
Nikitin / Reinhart

Andrej Sekera battling against a Flame.  Good to see.  Image courtesy of Canada.com

Overall, the defense is only slightly better with Sereka.  This is not a playoff defensive core yet and assuming that Chiarelli knows this, there is a strong need for another proven top pairing defensemen in the likes of Franson or Seabrook.   I think that move nearly completes this team for a good run at the playoffs. Until then...

OKC Barons' Darnell Nurse ties up a Texas Stars guy.  Image courtesy of OilersNation.com

So what of Nurse?  He played well in the AHL playoffs.  I think you start him there then see how you can make room on the roster.  Nurse will essentially replace Ference or Nikitin.  It's about asset management.  Both Ference and Nikitin need to show they still have value.  Ference has a couple years left and Nikitin one year, so if you play Nikitin and he shows some value, you can at least trade him for draft picks.

My guess is Chiarelli is going to wait and see then make a move either in December or at the trade deadline.  I'm not sure if a buyout will happen--only if Nikitin continues to suck (likely).

GOALIES

End of 2014/2015
Ben Scrivens
Viktor Fasth (IR)
Richard Bachman
Laurent Brossoit
Tyler Bunz
Ty Rimmer

Talbot replaces Fasth - UPGRADE.  Fasth was supposed to be our #1 but I honestly can't blame the guy, or any goalie for that matter, for having to play behind one of the leakiest defenses in the league. That said, he lacked in focus.  Talbot was certainly an up-and-comer with the Rangers and backed up King Henrik very well, but that's with a pretty solid defense in front of him.  Talbot is also supposed to be employing the same goaltending technique that ol' Dubnyk learned before signing with the Wild last year.  Good signs there.  But I'm now thinking Gene is going to use some turbot fish for "Talbot" or something. Maybe he won't. I'm still taking a drink.

Nilsson replaces Bachman - UNKNOWN.  I always liked Bachman, became a quick fan favourite, but they let him go and he got picked up by the Canucks organization.  Anders Nilsson has some NHL experience with the Islanders, had great numbers in the KHL last year (1.71 GGA, .936 SA) to catch attention.  (Gene, I got nothing.)

Laurikainen replaces Bunz - UPGRADE.  Bunz's debut at the end of the season didn't pan out well.  Playing mostly in the ECHL, getting a puck to the throat can't be good, but moving him out of the system was good for the Oilers to make room for others, like Laurikainen.

So what of Scrivens?  We all get very nervous when he plays the puck and he's much too scrambled eggs for my liking.  He's streaky and when he's on, he's very, very good, but when he's not, he's out to lunch. Hopefully the competition come camp will push him harder, but I don't see him lasting and will get traded at the deadline or sooner before he's UFA to at least get some value and Gene will say "Scriven me timbers" when Ben falls to trade. That would open the bridge door for Nilsson or Brossoit to make their case.  

Start of 2015-2016
Cam Talbot
Ben Scrivens
Anders Nilsson
Laurent Brossoit
Eetu Laurikainen

Photo by ME!

McDAVID

It took Gretzky, Lemieux, and Crosby about 3-5 years before they made an impact on their team's standings and Cup contentions.  Hoping he isn't subject to injury, I believe whichever line he's on, he'll need a big fast checker to get the puck to him off the boards.  I'm not sure having him with Yakupov will work.  But maybe this is the guy that Yak needs to elevate.  Because if Yak can't do that with McDavid, he can't with anybody. Then again, McLellan might put Hall, McDavid and Eberle together and Pouliot-Nuge-Yak on the 2nd line.  

OVERALL

On paper, this roster is slightly better than last year and will garner about another 10 wins more, where Calgary had 21 more wins to make the playoffs and to beat the Nucks.  But we do have the new coaching element to consider, and what level of impact McDavid and Talbot will have on the team to boost the scoring by a goal every two to four games and reduce by every two games respectively--that alone could boost the wins by 20.  McLellan has a winning powerplay in his books and that may add even more wins.

It's that darn defense, I tells ya.  One more guy.  One more guy.