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.


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
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).


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

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

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).


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!


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.  


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.

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