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):

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.

Sekera - ???
Klefbom - ???
Nurse - ???

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.


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?