Friday, December 30, 2016

Oilers beat Kings, take next step

 toward being a solid playoff contender.  I can't believe we're finally talking about playoffs, by the way, and it's a great feeling.  Although many of us have learned our lessons of hope and disappointment, like an ugly kid at a school dance, we wait until the next year with a wave of new students attending who we might impress them to think we're one one of the popular kids, then a couple months in, they see that we're posers.



I'm not saying I was one of those kids in school--I was too busy playing sports, but I didn't really go on a lot of dates either, not that I didn't want to.

Not only do the Oilers have some popular kids like McDavid, Eberle, Draisaitl, and Nuge, they have the bullies like Lucic, Maroon, Hendricks, Kassian, and Gryba, plus Nurse.  Then there's the scrappy guys who some don't realize would probably kick your ass like Larsson, Russell, Caggiula, and Letestu.  And with that wrecking crew, no one should touch the kids, right?

Wrong. We're still seeing McDavid get held, grabbed, and molested. I still believe those aforementioned bullies need to step in more and sacrifice--especially Lucic.  That's what he was signed up for, right?  That said, players are defending each other, something you didn't see as much before.  That's what a real TEAM is supposed to do.

The recent Arizona game was a testament to the Oilers establishing themselves this season in beating a team they never beat in regulation.  It was a nasty win with Zack Kassian literally leading the physical battle in defending his linemate Hendricks against Ekman-Larsson's take down, then dropping his gloves waiting for Shane Doan, then getting taken down by the linesman... just look at his face here...


Fuck ya.

So against the Kings, even with, Reggie Sekera, their top d-man out with illness, the defense played well, Larsson was incredibly solid in being able to handle the big Kings lineup, stopping Taffoli and Kopitar in their tracks.  It was plays like that which made believe in the Hall-Larsson trade even more.

No longer could the Kings tire out and outlast the Oilers--nay!  It was the other way around.  Even the mighty Drew Doughty, in playing 79 thousand minutes, got tired, and Draisaitl and McDavid were there right on him each time to take advantage with good chances the other way.

The biggest difference this season over the last is not just having way fewer injuries to top players, it's that all teams now have to respect the Oilers--not just because of great skill, but that at the same time, they are arguably the toughest team in the league, physically, skill-wise, and in goaltending.

And that, my friends, is the next step.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Oilers keep their heads above water, but are they in over their head?

 So the analogy goes.  After the 1/3 mark (28 games and 54 to go), the Oilers are one point ahead in the Pacific Division.  There is no doubt, they could be much further ahead if they had given it that extra push when it counted.  They have 4 overtime/shootout losses and that's 4 lost points right there and 5 games they lost by 1 which they could have realistically won 3 of them, so that's 6 points, and 10 points total, putting them top in the league.

That said, they are on the playoff bubble and a small streak of losses could see them looking on the outside.

When you see defensive-zone mistakes where players are out of position or not picking up man, not back-checking, or staring at the puck too much, little mind-blips can cause the other team to score in a blink, a loss, and no playoffs.

In the East, there are currently 6 points (3 games) between 1st and the last Wild Card spot, and 6 points between that and last place.

In the West, there are currently 9 points between 1st and the last Wild Card spot, and 9 points between that and last place.

The Oilers are only 4 points (2 games) out of a playoff spot, and the have games in hand on other teams, so any fan who sees the Oilers breaking through this year will surely be disappointed.

They are still not a complete team, and STILL have glaring holes in the lineup.

For forwards, only 4 are in the top 50 in scoring (McDavid, Eberle, Draisaitl, and Lucic).
For defense, only 2 are in the top 50 in scoring (Sekera and Klefbom).

A couple more injuries to any of those players, and the Oilers are doomed and will miss the playoffs.

Not having Davidson or Nurse in the lineup hurts this team and will hurt as Dillon Simpson is about to make his debut from the AHL.

Jesse Puljujarvi has scored only one goal and has 7 points in 21 games while Drake Caggulia has 5 points in 10 games.  As I've said many times, if the Oilers do not send Jesse down to the AHL before game 38, it will still glaringly show the lack of vision of player development.

Currently, the Oilers are barely holding their heads above water and might be in over their head.  And if they are in over their head, when they tread water they may only have a bubble to breathe out of.

But at some point, that bubble will burst.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Young Oilers can't beat trapping teams

.. and that is why they lose to the Coyotes and Wild most of the time.  The youngins aren't used to playing against this defensive structure and are unable to penetrate the zone as well as they ought, create two on ones, or even get in the slot for a decent chance on net.

Oilers are young?  Yes. Yes they are. Still.  Forever young.  Forever young.

McDavid, Puljujarvi, Draisaitl, Caggiula, Slepyshev, Pitlick, Klefbom, Benning, Talbot -- an average of less than 82 games under their belt.  That's 9 of 23 players. But that's why everyone is pissed at Eberle. He's a veteran now and should know better.

Again, too many times over the weekend did we see wingers having to skate to the outside only to lob a softy toward Mike Smith, who will save shots like that 12 times out of 10.

I, like many of you, can't stand the trap, and it's killing the game.  I wish there was an illegal defense rule like the NBA has in preventing zone defenses, which are generally quite boring in basketball (except for the attacking arrowhead).

As an aside, on Friday, that Klefbom to Larsson goal was probably the best Oilers defensive goal I have seen in years.  That's what a playoff team should look like.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Oilers now have four scoring lines

.#OilersNation
The game against Dallas saw Lander on waivers, injured Hendricks and Caggiula in, Pouliot and Letestu benched. This jumbled up the lines, but the result was a lot of chemistry.

Essentially, the Oilers now have four scoring lines that are well-balanced.  Four.  Every line has a skilled checker, a two-way centreman, and a skilled winger.
Courtesy of DailyFaceoff.com
Firstly, let's just mention that having Lucic, Maroon, Kassian, and Hendricks is a fantastic slate of big, strong checkers but who can also play.  This is what the Oilers have wanted forever.

Line 1:
This was also the first time we saw McDavid and rookie Puljujarvi on a line together and despite my misgivings on the idea, it worked really really well with McDavid's first hat trick and Puljujarvi getting two assists. He's able to keep up with the captain, something no one else on the team could do.  Lucic is the Deputy here, but he needs to step up to protect his Captain. It's what he was hired to do.

Line 2:
This line held their own, despite no points.  I've always thought Nuge and Ebs should stick together with their history.  Eberle hadn't been working out as well for McDavid due to foot speed. Maroon can play on any line, score, fight, what have you.

Line 3:
Such a strange mix of players but it worked until Kassian took a dumb 4 minute penalty with the lead.  Slepy and Drai were able to provide assists to Klefbom's goal.  Many Russians prefer playing on their offside (Ovechkin, Yakupov) and while Slepy and Drai's forehand sticks don't match on passes skating forward, with a stop in the offensive zone and pass back to the defense, the puck is then protected on the outside with the boards, allowing you to even pass off the boards easier.

Line 4:
I love this line. It could easily be a 3rd line as well.  I won't miss Lander, but we all missed Hendricks.  He's the checker here and while he may not be able to keep up with The Drake and Pitty, those two showed excellent chemistry together.

All three lines can have a checker to get the puck and dish to a centre, who passes to a winger for a shot and rebound (Puljujarvi and McDavid) or pass and shot (Caggiula to Pitlick).

Pouliot hasn't scored in a very long time and Letestu has even registered a shot on net in forever.  McLellan isn't playing favourites, even for veterans, that's for sure.  I could see Pouliot slotting in for Kassian on the third line putting Slepyshev back on the right.

Despite the good mix, what the Oilers now lack are good penalty killers, which Lander and Letestu are.  This will be the difficult part going forward, so the Oilers need to stay out of the box and not having Pouliot and Kassian take dumb penalties, is likely why McLellan keep one of them out of the lineup.

With Lander down in Bakersfield, is Letestu now the 13th forward?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Everything I said would happen, happened

 #Oilers #OilersNation
Do I know my Oilers or do I know my Oilers?  In my last post on November 4, I said the Oilers looked like they were shooting for the sake of shooting and if they only won 1 of 4 games on the Eastern road trip, that was a fail.  Here's what I said:

HypeOilers now sit 7-3-1 and are tied for first in the West.  They need to plug up their defensive positioning (as always) and they could beat the Islanders, Pittsburgh, and Detroit, but I get the feeling they'll only win 1 of 3 and go 8-6-1 after this road trip, which would be a fail and not living up to the hype that the start of the season provided, but more of the reality that many of us would expect--a team that perhaps squeaks into the playoff picture.
For that, they will need to be better than 8 wins in 15 games (.533).  Hopefully, a weak division can keep them in the top 3.
They lost to the Rangers, beat the Islanders, lost to the Penguins and beat the Red Wings.

Why have the Oilers lost so many games lately?

It's complicated and simple.   Let's look at the simple.

1.  Injuries to defensemen -- Not having Kris Russell and Brandon Davidson has impacted the team the most and put more pressure on Klefbom to perform which he has been unable to do, which then creates a domino effect to Larsson and down the line. Sekera and Klefbom need to switch positions.

2.  Save percentage -- Poorer defense causes better chances by the opponent.

3.  Corsi -- The Oilers have been outshooting their opponents but losing.  While some goalies have been hot, more shots than usual are lofters and the team is "shooting for the sake of shooting" to somehow drive up the odds on scoring.

4.  Laziness -- I'm looking at Eberle, Lucic, and Pouliot who haven't been up to snuff lately.  This causes McLellan to line juggle, kill the chemistry, and cause discontent throughout the lineup.

5.  Right-wingers playing on lines above their level.  It can be argued that Eberle is no longer a top line winger.  Keeping Puljujarvi around was out of necessity since trading Yakupov and being unable to sign Kris Versteeg.  Thankfully, Kassian and Pitlick have stepped up well to pick up the slack but neither are really top 6 guys at this time, maybe for a little while, but not consistently.

On a complicated note, looking at 1. above, the continued process of scouting, drafting, and developing good defensemen in the AHL so they hit the ground running in the NHL is vitally important to a team's overall long-term success.  If Russell wasn't injured, Benning would be in Bakersfield, and if Davidson wasn't injured, Nurse would be there too, and Gryba would be the 7th defenseman.  This has a further trickle-down effect:

1. Centres need to come back more to help the defense -- they expend more energy as a result

2. Wingers perform 1 on 3 solo-attacks because the centres aren't around (except McDavid).  They don't get in the danger zone so all they can do is shoot a weak wrister.

3. Talbot has been getting better shot attempts on him because the inexperienced defense is out of position.

Injuries happen all the time.  The other players need to step up even more and save Maroon, Kassian and Pitlick, it's not happening.






Friday, November 4, 2016

Great starts often cool

Wow, that was a hell of a start.  Haven't seen that since .... 1986!   Flashes of Gretzky+Kurri started happening and then at the Heritage Classic we saw them play together again with Smytty and Messier and Anderson and Semenko and Roloson and Cujo and MacDonald and Huddy and it was oh so glorious.



Before I continue let me give props to Matti Hagman--still one of the best Finns the Oilers have ever had and blessings to his family on his passing.  I'll never forget how really good you were.

Luck
During the hype and hoopla of the new arena, McDavid killing Calgary, Talbot standing on his head, his wife having twins, Adam Larsson proving himself quite worthy, and Kris Russel showing he's got (wait... we'll see), I was very concerned about the team PDO% (goalie save % + team shooting %) being at 106%.  The Habs were at 107%.  That had to come down naturally at some point. (100% is the norm and average.)

During the win streak, they were shooting the lights out and Talbot was crazy good.  And McLellan knew it wouldn't last, so he began emphasizing shooting... which for all you CorsiLovers and LA Kings fans is like the best thing ever.

So what do the players do?  They shoot from everywhere.  They, how did Eberle put it a year and a half ago after Eakins was let go, "Shooting for the sake of shooting."

After that win streak and three losses in a row, the Oilers PDO is down 4 points now to   0.922 + 0.101 = 1.020.

Powerplay
A big culprit in that has been the powerplay.  We'd have beat Ottawa, the Leafs, and Rangers if the PP was better.  It's been the absolute shits.  I just don't understand Woodcroft's plays.  I don't mind the drop pass to charge the blue line and gain it, but after that, like WTF?

A big part of that are the defensemen bringing up the puck and I'm sorry to say but Nurse and Russell are better than Klefbom and Sekera.  And Lucic needs to plop himself in front of the net, cause havoc a la Ryan Smyth (who I am meeting on Thursday at his new Bar94 in Lux... eeeee!).

Anyway, here's how I'd deploy the PP units:

PP Unit #1
Nuge
[ n e t ]

Puljujarvi -- Lucic -- McDavid

Nurse

Or switch Nuge and McDavid.

PP Unit #2
Draisaitl
[ n e t ]

Eberle -- Maroon -- Pouliot or Pitlick

Russell

Then the key here is to pass and attack the net to look for a give and go and to pull defenders in.  We used to do this and it worked often. There was so much movement happening, but the key was to ensure we still covered the points.

Pool Party
On Puljujarvi, I am surprised he wasn't sent down after 10 games.  I thought the organization had learned from the past about player development.  Perhaps singing Versteeg was to fill that hole, then trading Yakupov really opened it up and the #4 draft pick is here to stay.  He needs to stay on the 3rd line though.

4th Line is Tops
The 4th line will be the difference-maker in a lot of games as they have.  Lander is playing right where he should. Letestu plays better than a 4th liner but it's a 3rd liner, and
And whoever doesn't think Tyler Pitlick should stick should take a stick and shove it.  "He's like a dog after a bone." -- Dave Lumley on 630CHED.

Hype
Oilers now sit 7-3-1 and are tied for first in the West.  They need to plug up their defensive positioning (as always) and they could beat the Islanders, Pittsburgh, and Detroit, but I get the feeling they'll only win 1 of 3 and go 8-6-1 after this road trip, which would be a fail and not living up to the hype that the start of the season provided, but more of the reality that many of us would expect--a team that perhaps squeaks into the playoff picture.

For that, they will need to be better than 8 wins in 15 games (.533).  Hopefully, a weak division can keep them in the top 3.

Go Oilers!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Oilers opening day lineup at 91% of ideal

For those of you who think this line up is ideal and will get the Oilers to playoffs, you are dreaming.  With Versteeg not signing, not having a top 4 RHD quarterback, as well as rookies on the 3rd line, Oilers will have to have some puck luck and Talbot standing on his head for them to get to 93 points or better.  

How do I know?  

Below are my calculations using my handy Lineup Value Metric (LVM) for the Oilers' opening day lineup.

4 x (Lucic (3) + McDavid (5) + Eberle (4)) = 48 = 100%

Lucic is not a top line forward and is ideal as a second line winger. McDavid is better than a top line.

3 x (Pouliot (3) + Nuge (4) + Draisaitl (2)) = 27 = 100%

Nuge can play top line minutes. Draisaitl is better as a centre and is also playing his off-wing.

2 x (Maroon (2) + Caggulia (1) + Puljujarvi (1)) = 67%

Caggulia and Puljujarvi are rookies.  Look for low minutes here.  My guess is Charelli is going to hunt for a veteran right-winger before the 10 game mark to send Puljujarvi down to Bakersfield. Ideally, that's what would happen.

Oh but where's Versteeg, you ask?  Well, he wanted to play with McDavid, Nuge, or Draisaitl, not a rookie centre in Caggulia, although their chemistry seemed pretty good, he decided to sign in Calgary. Bummer.

1 x (Pitlick (0) + Letestu (1) + Kassian (1)) = 67%

Pitlick on his off-wing although it usually doesn't matter much on a 4th line yet he didn't play in big league last year. 

Forwards: 94%

4 x (Klefbom (3) + Larsson (4)) = 88%

Klefbom needs more years to be considered a true top d-man.

3 x (Sekera (3) + Russell (2)) = 83%

Russell is playing his off-handed side.

2 x (Nurse (1) + Davidson (1)) = 75%

Nurse should be in AHL.  Davidson is playing off-handed side.

Defense:  84%

5 x Talbot (4.6) = 92%
Talbot's SSV% is around 92%.

Team:  91%
A ways to go yet.  Again, 2-3 more better players needed.  And we haven't even talked about the dark road of injuries and depth.  Why Chiraelli didn't pounce on Parenteau or Pulkukainen on the waiver wire is beyond many of us. He could have had Puljujarvi develop and adjust more in Bakersfield. 

In contrast, the lineup on the last game last season was:
97% forwards
57% defense
90% goalie
79% team

Regardless, it's going to be another Oilersdrama-filled year folks. 

At least it's entertaining, right?


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Oilers latest at World Cup of Hockey, Centres, Young Stars, PTOs, and Rogers Place

Yay! Hockey season is back!  Yaaaayyyyyy!!!!!!  I love the Fall. Beautiful weather. New big huge bad ass building near the office and ten minute Uber from home.

Oilers / Team Europe centre Leon Draisaitl scores on Czech Republic in the World Cup of Hockey Tournament. Image courtesy of Yahoo.com.

Oilers in the World Cup of Hockey Tournament:

G+A=P (+/-)
1+2=3  (+1) Nugent-Hopkins (North America)
0+3=3  (+1) McDavid (North America)
2+0=2  (+3) Draisaitl (Europe)
0+0=0  (+1) Sekera (Europe)

In the prelim round, Draisaitl got a hat-trick. In a two game span, he was scoring at a rate of about 1 goal per 5 minutes.  That's absolute insanity.

Centres

There was some talk this Summer of trading Nuge or Draisaitl to free up cap space for another right-shot d-man then bringing in a 3rd line centreman like David Backes.  Didn't happen. Whatever.  So are you as excited as I am with having three highly-skilled and very smart two way players like McD, Nuge, and Drai?  

Here's the thing.  I think Drai needs to be on the 3rd line.  Why?  Unless he's dramatically improved his conditioning to last longer, being on the 3rd line will cut his minutes.

Generally, it goes like this, and often it's based on salary.  Duh. That's called value, man.
1st line:  20-22 minutes per game
2nd line: 16-19 minutes per game
3rd line: 11-15 minutes per game
4th line:   5-10 minutes per game

But with the Oilers, you could almost even the 2nd and 3rd line minutes depending on who's having the better game.  That's called competition, man.

Young Stars

There's no doubt Jesse Puljujarvi was lighting it up as he should.  So let's mention some of the other notable players like forwards Drake Caggulia, Patrick Russell, defenseman Ethan Bear, and goalies Nick Ellis and Keven Bouchard who all played very well.  Oilers swept the tourney which indicates to me that, initially, the Oilers depth and development system is looking better than the Flames and Canucks.  That's called better management, man.

PTOs

Oilers true depth on right-wing has been a contentious issue with the Yakupov banner-wavers claiming no such thing exists or that Eberle isn't good enough so trade him for defense.  Well, unless you have a solution to fill in for Ebs, like Lucic is doing for Hall's departure, then shut. your. trap.

Every Yakupov package trade scenario has been contemplated but the fact of the matter from Chiarelli's mouth is Yak's trade value is a 4th round draft pick, while the #2 pick right after Yak, defenseman Ryan Murray, is playing on Team North America.  Damn Katz.  Do you just play out Yak's contract and see if his value increases to dump him for pucks or better?  Seems so.  That said, they may put Yak with McDavid to up his value although Drai on the 3rd line isn't bad either.

Solution?  A Personal Try Out was offered to and accepted by middle-6 right-winger Kris Versteeg, who was playing in the Swiss League, and with some confusion over his health insurance from years ago, and management being on the ball, he "popped loose".  Versteeg is the near the exact type of player the Oilers need on the right wing.  Already heavy on the left side, having Versteeg's possession numbers are 1st line quality and better than Teddy Purcell--meaning, he wins puck battles to pop loose (saying that a lot, aren't I?) and pass to Nuge or Drai.

What this also allows the Oilers to do is keep Jesse Puljujarvi in the AHL to develop to the rink size--although at the Young Stars tourney, it didn't seem to phase him.  This would be the smart move.  Have placeholder players.  There's no rush with Jesse.  Finally the Oilers can do what they've needed to do for a long time and that is to stop rushing players and exposing them to young-bone injuries, but have them hit the ground running when they're a little older, stronger, and wiser.  That's called better development, man.

As it's now obvious Chiarelli couldn't find another right-shot d-man over the summer, a last-minute PTO was offered to previous Oilers huge right-handed d-man Eric Gryba.  This is a good move as the Oilers still don't have ANYONE to fill that spot other than moving a lefty to the right side.  I'm done with all of you who think a lefty there makes sense. Stop it.  That's called a better ideal scenario, man.  Would someone better than Fayne on 2nd pair be ideal. Yes it would. Gryba will be a stop gap.

The other potential PTO is for former Flames lefty d-man, Kris Russell.  Wow, what are the odds of two Kris' being offered a PTO?  Zero.  Russell would be the fill-in 7th man while Nurse, Reinhart, and Oesterle develop for another year.  Nurse needs to be a dominating d-man in the AHL in order to be impact in the NHL and he's not quite there yet.

The Lineup

This leaves the potential lineup as follows:

Lucic - McDavid - Eberle
Pouliot - Nuge - Versteeg
Maroon - Draisaitl - Yakupov
Hendricks - Letestu - Kassian
(Lander - Pakarainen)

Klefbom - Larsson 
Sekera - Fayne
Davidson - Gryba
(Russell, Oesterle)

You know, save a couple spots, this is a solid hockey team.  The best one the Oilers have had since...

Mr. Rogers Neighborhood Place
Ford Hall at Rogers Place. Image courtesy of the Edmonton Journal.
I took the tour on the Sunday.  It's big. The "bridge" called "Ford Hall" over 104th Avenue is just pure awesome and the artwork spectacular.  It really will bridge the downtown core with the arena without having billions of fans cross the road by foot.  It feels like an airport coming in and certainly takes a while for one to get to their seats. 

When you get in, there are so many lounges. So many kinds of seats.   The casino I hear isn't as big as everyone thought it would be.  We didn't pop in but I like roulette.  Maybe I'll only play after a game if the Oilers lose (so hopefully rarely).

Lots of up escalators but didn't see any down ones (maybe one).  It also felt like they really want you to stay on your level as it's difficult to get up and down once you find the back stairs.

The seats themselves were disappointing.  Seems all the upper level seats weren't any wider than Rexall although there was about one more inch for my knees to the seat in front.  Only the lower bowl had cup holders and a smattering of wider seats.  I'm loving Commonwealth Stadium with the wider seats and cup holders--was hoping it would be the same for all seats at Rogers Place.  The sight lines are what stand out.

No more gambit for the fans to watch and howl at the players as they come to and from the dressing room.  Like in Pittsburgh, there is a glassed lounge.  But access to underneath the stands is Forbodden!

The dressing room is what it should be--a semi-circle so all are equal.  The theatre room to go over video is big and roomy.  The physical and training rooms are massive.  All good things for the players to have the best.

Parking?  Just don't do it.  Take the nearest LRT in your area to a downtown station and if you're on the Capital Line, switch to the Metro Line.  I bet you many folks will be parking in Kingsway Garden Mall and LRTing it over one station.

Anyway, thanks for reading.  Lots of exciting Oilerama going on.  I've moved to a new house and have setup my man cave with Oiler stuff, goal lite, and more.  I figure if I don't attend a few home games, I'll be able to pay for the house in no time!















Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Oilers should do the smart thing

 Ever since Rebuild 1.0, the Oilers have had to use rookies in top positions to fill the void left from management unable to find the right free agents, the right draft choices, and not even having a sole farm team to plop those drafted players into for development until they were fully ready to hit the ground running to play in the big league.

That scenario put new coach Tom Renney in a difficult position to find that balance between "protecting the kids" to winning, knowing they were the better players on the team.  Then injuries ensued and the Oilers had to call up almost half of the Oklahoma City Barons roster to fill in.  Renney knew the real reason he was fired was because he knew the management was terrible in not providing him developed NHL-ready players.  What was he supposed to do?

Two coaches later, nothing really changed much.  When you look at the drafted and developed players who went from the AHL to the NHL, the Oilers cupboard is pretty bare.  Not only that, there were many first round top draft picks, including #1s that didn't even play in the NHL.  Look here to see the carnage.

Since 2007, out of the 76 players drafted, about 1/3 have played NHL minutes and 1/4 regular minutes.  Since 2010, about 12 players.

Here's a list of the players since 2007 who at least had some regular minutes and where they are now:

By Kevin Lowe:
#6 Sam Gagner - Oilers regular then traded by MacT
#22 Jordan Eberle - 11 games in AHL before Oilers regular

By Steve Tambellini:
#40 Anton Lander - AHL, then Oilers fill-in
#10 Magnus Paajarvi - Oilers regular then traded by MacT
#1 Taylor Hall - Oilers regular then traded by Chiarelli
#31 Tyler Pitlick - AHL, some NHL time
#46 Martin Marincin - AHL, Oilers regular, then traded by MacT
#162 Brandon Davidson - AHL, then Oilers regular
#1 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Oilers regular
#19 Oscar Klefbom - AHL, then Oilers regular
#1 Nail Yakupov - Oilers regular
#63 Jujhar Khaira - AHL, some NHL time

By Craig MacTavish:
#7 Darnell Nurse - AHL, Oilers regular?
#3 Leon Draisaitl - short AHL stint, Oilers regular

By Peter Chiarelli:
#1 Connor McDavid - Oilers regular

9/16 players with 7 traded.

Of those non-#1 draft picks only Kevin Lowe's picks of Sam Gagner did not start in the AHL. (Of course, many drafted had to complete their years of junior hockey.)  Everybody else had a shorter or longer stint in the AHL.

I would argue that if the Oilers had a deeper organization from better drafting, then there wouldn't be a need to rush these other picks onto the team.

So, what to do with this years' #4 draft pick 18 year old right winger Jesse Puljujarvi?

Jesse Puljujarvi image courtesy of gettyimages and the NHL

Many would say he will make the NHL this year, but the history shows that he will have to play more junior/other league. He's only 18 and only if you are from the CHL do you have to be 20 to play in the AHL, so he can be sent down.  He needs to get used to the smaller rink and the heavier style of play here.  There's no doubt that he will be impactful NHL player.

The question is, for how long should Puljujarvi play in the minors?

In looking at the right side of the forward lineup as far as experience and where they should be playing:

  1. Jordan Eberle is most certainly a top line scoring winger.
  2. Nail Yakupov is not a top line guy, nor is he a 3rd line checker, but more of a 2nd line scoring/power play guy.  Trade rumours abound.
  3. Zack Kassian may be deemed a 3rd line checking forward but he's better positioned as a 4th line two-way winger.  
  4. Iiro Pakarainen is a lesser version of Kassian.
  5. Tyler Pitlick has a chance to make his case again.

So essentially the Oilers are not really deep on the right wing of overly impactful players.

What to do?  What to do?

If Yakupov does get traded, Chiarelli himself told a friend of mine that he's only been offered a 4th round pick.  If that's the case, then it leaves a hole on that 2nd line to be filled by a veteran free agent. Names like Vrbata pop up.

Ideally, Puljujarvi would play a season or two in the minors in North America.  Then he would easily slide in on a middle six role.

Let's hope the newerish management sticks to their guns and doesn't rush this player.








Thursday, July 7, 2016

#Oilers need one more right-shot defenseman

 who can take a pass from his leftside partner, skate and move the puck to his blue line and pass up to a streaking McDavid tape to tape, forehand to forehand, let alone a good shot on the powerplay to open up the zone even a wee bit for McThreadTheNeedle.

The angle from a left-shooting guy, even on the right side of the ice to the middle lane is tighter than from an ideal right-shooting player, especially if he's near the boards or is using his body to protect the puck between him and the boards.

It's why Eberle plays so well with McDavid, why Kurri and Gretzky were pure magic, and why having a lefty-to-righty skilled pairs is virtually vital to playmaking in hockey.

Having Tyson Barrie from the Avalanche, a 24 year old RFA who is now in salary arbitration, was deemed by coach Patrick Roy as a 5th defenseman. His value is much more than that.

From http://ownthepuck.blogspot.ca, we can clearly see Barrie is a top pairing offensive defenseman.


Peter Chiarelli declared that he's happy with the team lineup now.  I don't know a single Oilers fan who is though.  He has to say that in case he's unable to make a deal.

But that doesn't mean Pete's not going to keep working to make it even better and more ideal.  That's why he offered the Avs Benoit Pouliot, Nail Yakupov, and a 1st round pick, but it was apparently and obviously turned down as the Avs would want a decent defenseman in return.

It can be argued that Barrie is better than Larsson and would garner more in return than Taylor Hall, say Nugent-Hopkins + Brandon Davidson/Darnell Nurse + 2017 1st Round Pick.

Listening to Bob Stauffer on Monday, he thinks as Barrie's arbitration goes on, his trade value goes down as the Avs will want to unload him more instead of lose him to free agency.

He then suggested that a three-way deal with Anaheim might be in store with Fowler going the Avs.  Fowler is not nearly as good as Barrie but makes a little more $4m to $3.2m.

Barrie is even better than Sekera ($5.5m) so he'd have every inclination to demand at least that.  And the Oilers could afford it.

For the expansion draft, teams can protect 7 forwards, 3 d-men, and 1 goalie, or 8 players and a goalie. Players within first 2 years of pro hockey are already protected.  If a player has a no movement clause, he counts in one of the declared protected players.

Oilers who'd already be protected include:  McDavid, Nurse, Puljujarvi

They should protect:
7 forwards:  Lucic, Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle, Pouliot, Yakupov, Maroon
3 defensemen:  Sekera (NMC), Klefbom, Larsson
1 goalie:  Talbot

That exposes:
Forwards:  Hendricks (if he re-signs), Letestu, Kassian, Pakarinen, Lander
Defensemen:  Reinhart, Fayne, Davidson
Goalies:  Gustavsson, Brossoit

If Barrie is traded for, you'd want to protect him, so that would expose Klefbom because you'd still want to protect Larsson wouldn't you, and Sekera has a no movement clause.

So maybe, just maybe you trade Klefbom for Barrie straight up because you're going to lose him anyway if you bring Barrie for other players.  Las Vegas would be nuts not take Klefbom.

Offensive top 4 right-shot defenseman?

Solved.



Thursday, June 30, 2016

Grieving about Taylor Hall

 #Oilers #OilersNation
As we lament on the loss of this gem of a player, work with me as we go through the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  I went through stages 1 to 4 yesterday.  Today is 5.

After getting the 1st Star, Taylor Hall throws pucks over the boards for endearing fans.  My photo.

1. Denial
I was in a meeting when a good friend texted me the news. I couldn't believe it. I went to my computer and it was confirmed. Everyone in the office was in shock. Then Subban for Weber and the two Habs fans in the office joined us in the denial. This morning, everyone woke up and wondered if it was a bad dream.

2. Anger
The anger was apparent in the media's questions to Chiarelli and even he seemed irritated. My usually cheery wife was upset all evening and she asked me if it was real.  I was pissed because of all the years of bad scouting and drafting, this was a sacrifice.

3. Bargaining
I started wondering if there was a three way deal in place that we'd get Subban from Nashville for Larsson and Yakupov or something.  A friend of mine told me that when he was at a local pizza joint, Chiarelli himself asked him what he should do and my friend said a three way deal is the only way it could happen. So, I started believing that.  Then I heard Larsson was on Stauffer's show and the three-way belief ended.

Then we all started looking at Larsson's stats to find a silver lining beyond what Chiarelli was selling us. Not a single pundit and blogger I've read thinks this was a good deal for the Oilers.  We are being sold on selling a proven player for potential.  Not that Larsson is a bad player--he's not.  He's a good, solid, young defender with a huge upside. He'll play top minutes with fellow Swede, Oscar Klefbom (if he's fully healthy).

4. Depression
As some of you know, at the Oilers Signature Event, I had Taylor sign my Gretzky/Messier-signed Titan hockey stick.






Those were my last words to him: "You deserve it."  Now my wife thinks the stick is cursed because all those players got traded after it was signed, and my friends said they'll shoot me if I try to get McDavid to sign it too.

Reading Connor McDavid's comments about how Taylor mentored him and took him under his wing really hit home--it was as if #4 died in an accident or something.

“I want to express thanks for all that he’s done for me because he’s done so much. I’ll never really know how I can repay him, or if I’ll ever be able to, for what he’s done for me this year.

“He’s a guy who took me under his wing right away. It’s hard to explain how much that means to me.”

We were nearly in tears, I shit you not. As we turned in for the evening, our hearts were heavy.  The Hall jersey that I bought my wife which she had signed by him laid on our bed before we hung it up in our window as a memorial to him. I then read Taylor's twitter post about how he cherished being in Edmonton.  

"Thank you to the city of Edmonton, the fans, and most of all, my teammates throughout my time with the Oilers. I will always cherish my time there and the memories that came with it."

And my reply:  "Because of you, my wife became a big fan and enjoyed coming to Oilers games with me. I can't thank you enough for it. #Hall4Ever"

Hall worked hard every game. He trained to his maximum and was in superb shape.  He was the face of the team for 5 years.  I feel bad for him, but he appears to be excited to play for the Devils.

I was hoping to see three scoring lines led by Hall, McDavid, and Nugent-Hopkins--like the Blackhawks and Penguins have.

I went to bed then had nightmares that he got traded like some bad groundhog day.

5. Acceptance
When Hall was drafted at #1, I said to my friends that the Oilers were going to be a totally different team. (I don't think I knew as much about hockey as I sort of do now.)  Well, they really weren't. Maybe more exciting because Hall is a risk-taker but a damn exciting player.  With pushing young players to play against stronger veterans, Hall saw many injuries (enough to have a whole separate blog post about it.)

Now, I'm telling myself these things to accept the fact he's not an Oiler anymore:

  • When Hall was put on a line with McDavid, the chemistry wasn't there. How is this possible? 
  • Eberle thinks he's a bit of a puck-hog.  Well, he does shoot more than anyone in the league
  • Hall is only as good as his centre is.  When Draisaitl's play dropped off in the new year, so did Hall's game.
  • He wasn't selected to be on Team Canada
  • He was born in Calgary
  • He has an attitude problem.  (I actually think he's simply a hard competitor)
  • He was a cancer in the locker room (although McDavid doesn't think so)
  • He's #4 and so was Kevin Lowe
  • Oilers needed a top-4 right-shot defenseman and this IS the price to pay to get one (although adding a 2017 2nd round draft pick would have been nice)
  • Larsson will work out.  Larsson will work out and be a stud d-man. It took a while for Hedman and others to develop into top defensemen and Chiarelli is confident that Larsson will work out.  Larsson will work out.

Goodbye, Taylor.  Thank YOU for the multitude of memories and excitement on the ice.


My wife's Taylor Hall signed jersey

Taylor Hall Statistics 










Monday, June 27, 2016

Globe and Mail article equates hockey on outs with Strombo

 #nhl #hnic #cbc #oilers
John Doyle from the Globe and Mail writes a seemingly convincing article that hockey is on the outs where baseball, basketball, and soccer are in because no one at the bar he was at was watching the Stanley Cup final between Pittsburgh and San Jose.

Ron mclean and george stromboulopoulos
(
CHRIS YOUNG / THE CANADIAN PRESS)  
He further equates the demise of hockey with Hockey Night In Canada's host George Stromboulopoulos, assumingly hired because he could appeal to a younger crowd, getting re-replaced with elder hockey statesmen Ron MacLean who Doyle implies apparently doesn't appeal to a younger crowd, although everyone knows MacLean knows 10000% more about the people and players in the sport than everyone else combined.

He even makes the reach and blames Harper's Conservative government for latching hockey to Canadian patriotism and because conservatism is old and on the outs with the kids, so is our national winter sport.  How Liberal of him!

Nevermind the Olympic hockey gold medals.

Nevermind that all the Canadian NHL arenas (except Vancouver obviously) continually sellout their games.

Nevermind that no Canadian teams made the playoffs for the first time in a long time.

Nevermind that the drop in the Canadian dollar and sluggish economy has had an effect on Canadian small market teams like Winnipeg and Ottawa being able to afford to pay top free agents.

Nevermind that maybe a lot of hockey fans just stayed home to watch it.  I did.

While I'm not saying that baseball, basketball, and soccer are not "in"--they are more so in the bubbly centre-of-the-universe that Doyle further exemplifies for the T Dot world, where these teams reside, but maybe, just maybe Doyle should branch out to other parts of this great country, away from a couple big city Toronto bars and thinking that award shows matter for most fans who haven't really cared about anyway, to see that hockey is most definitely alive and well in every other town, small and medium-sized, in every nook and cranny, and more importantly, in the hearts of the majority of Canadians.

And if he bothered to mention or perhaps watch Rogers Hometown Hockey, he'd see that its lovable host, one Ron MacLean, is doing just that.

This article was written without even having mentioned Connor McDavid.


Monday, June 20, 2016

Countdown to Draft Day Nonsense

. #Oilers

Whoa whoa whoah. Wait a freakin' minute here. The Oilogosphere has been going nuts this past week with trade rumours of mostly nonsense and it's getting really annoying.

Edmonton Oilers Nail Yakupov is happy for some reason.
Image courtesy of National Post
Everytime we hear so-and-so is going to be traded for such-and-such, it pretty much never happens and Oilers management does something out of the rafters that no one was expecting.  Maybe they're intentially deflective rumours, but that play is usually saved for politics, not sports. Only when you hear a guy from TSN like Dreger, Freidman, or Mackenzie say there's a possibility of something happening or Bob Stauffer tweets, then you should actually take it to heart.

These Taylor Hall trade rumours are crap and have no basis in anything. Oh sure, but the website URL you say is hockeytraderumours.com or something that Jerry, your 15 year old neighbour's son is misspelling about Tayler and Seth Johns?  Well, you got me there, you insider, you!

Then there's the mazillion suggestions of who remains for right-shot defensemen, like they're some pot o' gold at the end of the rainbow tunnel mountain waterfall paradise chocolate beer rock concert featuring all of the reincarnations all the god-like musicians who've died this past year with Gordie Howe as lead elbow security.  "Messiahs" like Sami Vatanen and Tyson Barrie are off the table because they got resigned.  Let's just hope Chiarelli doesn't pull a MacT and go to the KHL for options. We know how well that worked out.  I hear Anton Belov and Cam Barker are having a hell of a season in Kamchatka and Stalinland.

That said, do we bloggers read a bazillion blogs and tweets about the Oilers and NHL and try to put something together? Of course we do. It's that or watching a 0-0 tie match in the EuroCup between Estonia and Bosnia. If you ask me, I favour Narnia.

Ok, ok, out of the wardrobe and back to reality... (see what I did there?  If you did, then read on. If not, then you can still read on.)

Needs
We've all posted a million times and had a thousand beers on what the Oilers need in personnel to get to that next level.  To recap, in case you don't know by now:

1. 1st pair RD (because Kevin Lowe)
2. 2nd pair RD (because not Mark Fayne and because Kevin Lowe)
3. 3rd line C (because Letestu is a 4th line centre, plain and simple, and although Nuge can do it, it's not ideal for a Steve Austin player ("$6 million dollar man" if you didn't get the obvious reference or that you are way too young to remember that awesome TV show) to playing on the 3rd line although the Oilers can afford it under McDavid's and Draisaitl's ELC)
4. Backup goalie (because Brossoit needs to improve more)
5. Top 6 RW (to replace Purcell, you dummies, it's not a natural position for Draisaitl)
6. 3rd line RW (debatable, Kassian can play here if he improves)

Assets
To get #1 and #2 above, the assets I believe in play are (some in package deals, some not required):
#4 2016 pick
RW Jordan Eberle (because good return for D)
C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (because very good return for D)
LD Oscar Klefbom (swap for an equal RD)
LW Benoit Pouloit (because he was already in a deal with Yak for Maroon and Vatanen that fell through)
RW Nail Yakupov (because no defense and he wants off the team)
LD Griffin Reinhart (because he has potential)

Players who need to be off the team
Again, you don't see it?  You don't know how terrible the following players are?
- LW Lauri Korpikoski (because because because bad signy sign and bad player)
- RW Nail Yakupov (the Daryl Katz experiment is over, let's move on)

UFA/RFA signy signs that need to happen:
RD Eric Gryba (because big semi-skilled RD guys are scarce)
RW Iiro Pakarinen (because he's a big all-effort 4th line right-shot guy)
LD Jordan Oesterle (because he was a fantastic call-up, go 2 years)
RD Adam Clendening (because we need right shot defensemen in the system)
RW Tyler Pitlick (already happened for a year so there)

This leaves the current roster with an ideal lineup of, with depth (*call up)

Hall - Draisaitl - ?
Pouliot - McDavid - Eberle
Maroon - Nugent-Hopkins - Kassian
Hendricks - Letestu - Pakarinen
Khaira* - Lander - Pitlick

Klefbom - ?
Sekera - Fayne
Davidson - Gryba
Nurse* - Clendening
Reinhart* - Oesterle*

Talbot
?
Brossoit*

Many may argue against having Pouliot with McDavid and not Maroon but the stats don't lie.  I'm not sure having both Maroon and Kassian on the same line makes sense, but it could work.  Nuge needs a strong skilled partner there and Kassian can do it if he works at it.  Yak was never that guy.

Upcoming Potential Scenarios
  • Oilers sign a 3rd line UFA centre like David Backes, then you can bet he's trading Draisaitl or Nuge for a defensemen.
  • Oilers trade for top 4 defensemen like Kevin Shattenkirk ($4.2m). The Blues will want a defensive prospect in return making less money so Davidson maybe?
  • Oilers sign a top 6 RW UFA like Kyle Okposo, then maybe that puts Jordan Eberle in play for a top defensemen, although the Oilers don't have depth at top 6 right wing.
  • Oilers trade Taylor Hall for Shea Weber.  Not. Bloody. Happening.  Caught you there for a sec, eh?
All in all, at the end of the day, when it's all said and done, when the chips are down, and it's neither here nor there, it is what it is, so there you go, because that's the way the cookie crumbles, folks, and life's what you make it, so the story goes, what is and what shall ever be, as the more things change the more they stay the same, so we'll see since change is the only constant, so what are you gonna do. you know what I mean?

And so, my friends, that above sentence is about as cliche as all the trade rumours and proposals that are out there.










Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Oilers have cap room for UFAs--

With the NHL salary cap rumoured to be $74.5 million, and the Oilers with about $61.6 million in contracts for the 2016-17 season (see transactions below), this gives them about $13 million to sign some UFAs to fill in major gaps. Being that you usually overpay for quality UFAs, I will be conservative here.

Those gaps being:
1. Top right-side defensemen = $6 million
2. Third line centre = $3 million
3. Backup goalie = $2 million
Total:  $11 million

This is assuming Chiarelli makes the following moves:

UFAs/RFAs Release:
Cracknell (LW) - He's okay on the 4th line fill in.
Gazdic (LW) - With guys like Kharia around, there's no need to keep him
Nikitin (LD) - I don't even have to explain myself
Pardy (LD) - Mistake-prone defenseman
Klinkhammer (LW) - I'm torn on him but he's digressed.
Pitlick (RW/C) - He's a hell of a player actually, but is injury-prone. I wouldn't be surprised if he gets signed for one more year.

UFAs/RFAs Sign:
Kassian (RW) - He needs to be better and have a good camp.
Pakarinen (RW) - He had a great camp last year and good season near the end.
Gryba (RD) - He's a big tough right shot defensemen - a rarity.
Clendening (RD) - Only becuase he's right shot.
Oesterle (LW) - Filled in great on both sides.  Good trade bait.

Trade:
Korpikoski (LW) $2.5 million - Let's stop kidding ourselves and admit he's terrible.
Yakupov (RW) $2.5 million - Let's move on from the drama. His defense is the shits. He's not a third line winger, and brings down everyone around him.  Katz made a bad choice.
Hendricks (LW/C) $1.85 million - As much as we love him, he's getting slower and with one year left on his contract, might as well try and get something for him. Any team could use him.  I now feel he's the stop gap for Jujhar Khaira who has tonnes of potential as a big two-way skilled fighter.

Depending on what you get back (picks?), that's $6.85 million added to the $11 million for almost $17 million for UFAs to fill three spots now.  You can most certainly overpay for a two years until McDavid and Draisaitl need big contracts.

Send to AHL:
Nurse (LD) - He needs to dominate and gain some confidence.  Only reason he was called up was because of injuries and Nikitin sux.
Reinhart (LD) - I saw an improvement in possession and toughness.  Like Nurse, he needs to dominate.
Brossoit (G) - He didn't perform as well in net as we thought.

That brings the lineup to:

Hall - Nugent-Hopkins - Draisaitl
Pouliot - McDavid - Eberle
Maroon - ? - Kassian*
Khaira - Letestu - Pakarinen*
Lander

Sekera - ?
Klefbom - Fayne
Davidson - Gryba
Oesterle

Talbot
?

Other options:

- Trade Nugent-Hopkins for 3rd line centre and picks.  I'm not a fan of trading a legitimate two-way centreman.  But that can open up another $3 million for an overpayment on a top right-side UFA defenseman.  Then slot in Draisaitl to centre.  Now you need to find a top right winger.  In that case, you can easily move McDavid's line to be the top line, so you can find a 2nd line right winger and not pay as much.

- Trade Draisaitl (gasp!).  Like Nuge, he's not quite a 3rd line centreman.  But you might be able to get more using his potential as a selling point--again, to land that top right-side defensemen and nothing else.

- Trade Klefbom (you crazy mang!) for right-shot d-man straight up.  Davidson can play 2nd pairing minutes, but that means Nurse has to be ready to step up on the 3rd pair.

I don't think any of those things are actually going to happen though.  Call it a hunch.

What might happen is trading that #4 first round draft pick.  It's likely that player won't be an immediate NHLer, but for a team further down that is rebuilding, it can be valuable to trade up a guy with one year left.  Who?  I don't know.

Lots for Chiarelli to think about.  As he's said, a good GM needs to explore all options on the table.

And as an Oilers fan who discusses these options with colleagues and friends on a regular basis, we are finally assuming Chiarelli is a good GM.


Monday, May 9, 2016

The Oilers' mysterious missing 3rd Line

#Oilers #OilersNation
While the major hole in the Oilers lineup is not having top defensemen, the other huge hole is the 3rd line.  Essentially, the Oilers don't have a 3rd line. In most cases, I'd take the 4th line over the 3rd line any day of the week (except Tuesday, because the KFC chicken special isn't a toonie anymore and movies aren't that cheap anyway, plus Netflix is pretty good, you know).


Oilers' signing Drake Caggiula. Image courtesy USA Today.

Peter Chiarelli just signed a couple NCAA forwards to two year entry level deals"

1. Dr. Drake Caggiula (Kah-jjjewel-ya), a small-skilled-but-tough Canadian playing in North Dakota. (I added the "Dr.")

2. Patrick Russell (or is it Russell Patrick?), a Dane, a bigger than average dude playing in St. Cloud

So I've been readin' some stats and discussin' on Oilers Facebook groups and thinkin' 'bout next year's 3rd line, these guys, and some folks seem to think that they could slot in on the 3rd line at centre and right wing right away as their numbers translate accordingly to an NHL level.

But I'm like, hold on, hold on, they'll need a stint in Bakersfield, right? They should. The NCAA game isn't a tough as the AHL, that. is. for. sure. for. sure. And while Dr. Drake is a spark-plug of a player, he's small, so let's see how that really does translate.

Coach McLellan said that teams win with good 3rd lines because most teams have a good top 6 that match up anyway, so you need to be really smart about this.

And not only did the Oiler not have even close to an NHL-level defense this year, yes injuries injuries injuries, but that rag-tag of a third line that Chiarelli put together with Korpikoski and Letestu and Yakupov was a mess. A hot stinking mess.

Who did the Oilers mostly have on the 3rd line?
Left wing: Lauri Korpikoski, Matt Hendricks,
Centre: Mark Letestu, Matt Hendricks, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Right wing: Nail Yakupov, Iiro Pakarinen, Zack Kassian

In my super scientific Lineup Value Metric, the end-of-year actual to ideal lineup went like this:
1st Line: 92%
2nd Line: 88%
3rd Line: 57%
4th Line: 92%

Save the Nuge and Yak, all of the aforementioned players make very good 4th line players. Yak really only slots well on a 2nd line sniper role with a good centre like McDavid, but even then, Yak doesn't make McDavid better, but Eberle does.

Then I saw some stats on Patrick Maroon and Benoit Pouliot each playing with McDavid and Eberle, and believe it or not, but Pouliot had more success.

So here's what I'm thinking... Pouliot stays with McMagical and Ebernizer and call it the first line now and Maroon is the guy on the 3rd line, but I worry because he's not the greatest skater. Anyway, if Nuge isn't dealt for a defensemen, we stick with:


1. Pouliot - McDavid - Eberle
2. Hall - Nugent-Hopkins - Draisaitl
3. Maroon - ? - ?
4. Hendricks - Letestu - Kassian
5. Khaira - Lander - Pakarinen

And trade Korpikoski, Yakupov no matter what. That said, Draisaitl really isn't a right-winger or a third-line centre. He's an ideal 2nd line two-way centre.

If you trade Nuge for defensemen, as was rumoured with Seth Jones, you got to find a right-winger. Sorry but Kassian isn't your guy on the 2nd line and is a stop fill on the 3rd line, unless he can light it up with a decent centreman. I say look at St. Louis' UFAs, because they're going to lose against San Jose these playoffs.

Pouliot - McDavid - Eberle
Hall - Draisaitl - ?
Maroon - Backes (.57 ppg) - Brouwer (.46 ppg)
Hendricks - Letestu - Kassian
Khaira - Lander - Pakarinen

The key is finding that elusive 3rd line centre and right and if you say David Backes and Troy Brouwer from St. Louis, then there are your perfect ideal answers. Just as Hendricks is filling in for Khaira to develop as a 4th line LW/C, sign Backes and Brouwer on 2-3 year deals while Dr. Drake and Pat Russ develop would be a smart, ideal move.

And that should solve the mysterious missing 3rd line.

Should.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Oilers Lineup Value Metric - Season Summary!

After all the injuries and callups, I decided it was time to put some metrics to it, so I've been tracking the lineups for every game this year and comparing to an ideal lineup.  

To assign the ideal lineup, each line/pair gets a value multiplier As there's no way we are comparing a top line McDavid centre to a 4th line right-winger, each line gets a decreasing ideal value multiplier as it is similar to ice time. So 4-3-2-1 value for forward lines and 4-3-2 for defense pairs.  Goalies too.  This multiplier is then well, multiplied to the sum of the players' value on each line.  For example, let's look at what was often the top line:

Line Multiplier = 4
Taylor Hall = 4
Leon Draisaitl = 4
Zack Kassian = 2
4 x (4+4+2) = 40
Ideal line total = 48, so 40/48 =  83.3% line value.

Make sense?  Good.  If not, have a beer, but you can't deny that this is a pretty good way to put numbers to when we armchair fans say, "We need a 3rd line centre."  Now of course, the player value rating is based on my observations, and other site stats on players showing where they should play. We're not idiots here, so let's move on, shall we?


With the season over, I've calculated the averages and differentials for each position.  The chart is further below. 

The forward lineup was 14% OFF from an ideal lineup.
The defense...ugh.. was 37% WAY OFF from an ideal lineup.  No surprise there.
The team was 23% OFF an ideal lineup.  Essentially 1/4 of this team needs fixin', mostly defense.  It's not rocket appliances, folks.

What I didn't include was line by line and pair by pair.  Let's look...

Lineup Value Metric Line-by-Line:

FORWARDS:
1st line was 91.6% to an ideal line on average.
2nd line was 87.7% to an ideal line on average.  (Note that the 1st and 2nd line often switched.)
3rd line was 56.5% to an ideal line on average.  Hello, Korpikoski!
4th line was 92.3% to an ideal line on average.  Yes, yes it was.

DEFENSE:
1st pair was 62.0% to an ideal 1st pair.  Sounds about right, doesn't it?
2nd pair was 61.3% to an ideal 2nd pair.  
3rd pair was  67.0% to an ideal 3rd pair.  They couldn't even get this working.

Deficiencies:

FORWARDS:
1st line right-wing, which was often Kassian or Pakarinen this year, normally 3rd and 4th line guys with a 2 value, brought that down.
2nd line left-wing, again, with injuries to Pouliot, this hole was plugged with bottom 6 guys.
3rd line left-wing was Korpikoski. I eventually kept rating him at a 0 as he shouldn't be on the team.
3rd line centre was Letestu most often because Nuge was injured, and Letestu is a better suited 4th line centre.
4th line centre was often Lander, who had a horrible offensive season, but wasn't a difference maker.

DEFENSE:
I'm not ready to claim that Sekera is a top pairing defenseman.  Not having Klefbom was a huge gap. With Nurse and Davidson playing more, that 3rd pair left side wasn't too shabby, but after Davidson's injury, Reinhart, Oesterle, Pardy, and Clendening were plugs.  And note that often, these lefties had to play the right side, which drops you a value point.

Oilers Lineup Value Metric Averages for the 2015-2016 Season


Anyway, this was a fun experiment that I will try and continue for next season, or when summer trades and drafting happens, I'll update.  Now, think about this lineup:

Maroon - McDavid - Eberle
Hall - Draisaitl - Laine
Pouliot - Nuge - Kassian
Hendricks - Letestu - Pakarinen

Sekera - Shattenkirk
Klefbom - Hamonic
Nurse/Davidson - Gryba

Cam Talbot
Cam Ward


Monday, April 11, 2016

"A Taller Midget" - Chiarelli

 #Oilers POHO/GM Peter Chiarelli had a presser yesterday and I will say this again--it's refreshing to hear him speak because he sees what we see and gives clear evidence, not "visually better" excuses.

He laid out the season improvements but noted that it was "a taller midget".  Not the most PC-thing PC could say, but we got the point.  There was an improvement in Corsi possession in the 2nd half of the season--yeah, #BecauseMcDavid.

He said one and more likely two guys were untouchable.  This, too, is refreshing.  We are of course assuming McDavid and one of Hall, Talbot, and Draisaitl being the other.

After hearing Hall's post-season interview and his praise for McDavid, he seemed to be projecting that he wants McDavid as captain.  That's mature and humbling for him and it's not a slap in the face if McDavid becomes captain.  Messier had Gretzky as captain until the Great One was traded.

Pete "likes size" and noted adding Maroon and Kassian were good additions that way.  This is important to not because it has already changed the culture of the team to a more gritty style.  And now you can see guys like Hall and Yak getting into tussles more.  I think we can expect to see a couple more gritty-skilled guys added this Summer.

He was honest in his answer about backup Laurent Brossoit being called up to get a taste and that he needed to improve.  It appears highly likely that an NHL veteran backup goalie will be added and Brossoit sent back down to Bakersfield.  I can't help but wonder if goalie coach Schwartz is having a negative effect on goalies.  I mean, Nilsson was playing quite well then something happened.  Same with Brossoit.  Both are tall goalies and perhaps their style doesn't fit with Schwartz's ideas where Talbot's does.  I could be wrong and Brossoit and Nilsson just simply didn't follow Schwartz's techniques.

Chiarelli mentioned that if players like Nurse weren't called up early, it was because the defense and the team were playing better.  That said, I think he knew it was going to happen anyway.  I mean, when you start the year with Ference and Nikitin, to a lesser extent Fayne, and a pile of green rookies, what would you expect to happen?

Chia obviously sees the need to add not one, but two quality defensemen this off-season.  Names like Hamonic, Shattenkirk, and Vatanen have been talked about.  There are also UFA guys he can just sign like Alex Goligoski (DAL) 30yrs, 0.45 PPG, Keith Yandle (NYR) 29yrs, and Roman Polak (SJS) 30yrs to watch for, but I think they need right-shot guys, hence the original three names listed.

On the upcoming draft, it doesn't sound like Chiarelli is going to trade the pick--not with that amount of quality players this year in the top 5, but perhaps only if you can pull a top right-shot defenseman from another team.  If the draft lays out normally, Toronto would likely pick Matthews as their new centreman and rebuild from there with the Oilers selecting winger Laine, who is being compared to Mario Lemieux.

Say what?  I think if that happens, then you have your new core of McDavid, Hall, Draisaitl, Laine, Nurse, Talbot and this gives you room to move Eberle, Yakupov, and possibly Nugent-Hopkins for top defensemen.

Something has to give, or the Oilers will only get slightly taller.




Thursday, April 7, 2016

Farewell Rexall Place

Here are my thoughts on the day and attending the final Oilers home game at the Edmonton/Northlands Coliseum/Skyreach Centre/Rexall Place.

Churchill Square Rally

  1. I popped out from work at lunch to hit Churchill Square and see over 100 Oilers alumni gather on the steps.  There were thousands of people there.  We're crazy stupid fans still hanging on to old 1980's and 2006 dreams.
  2. God love Ryan Smyth but the guy can't talk in public with a darn.  That said, the love for him is 2nd to Gretzky, maybe 1st.
  3. Later at the Westin, I bumped into and said hello to Gretzky's old linemate, B.J. MacDonald. I said, "Blair MacDonald?" He said, "Yes."  I said, "Welcome back to Edmonton."  He said, "Thanks!" 
  4. Saw Grant Fuhr, Mike Krushelnysky, George Laraque, Willy Lindstrom, Craig Simpson, and Brett Callighen.  Fun!
  5. Lots of collectables fans parked in front of the hotel.  Lots.  Fuhr singed everything.

Pre-Game

  1. Traffic getting to the barn around 4:30 wasn't too bad.  I won't miss that now being able to just walk two blocks from the office downtown.
  2. I've never seen so many fans in Oilers gear before.  I wore my #94 Ryan Smyth away jersey and I stood out because there were like maybe 3% of fans in white jerseys.
  3. Singing O Canada with the late great Paul Lorieau one last time was a treat and so very 2006.
  4. Connor McDavid won the Molson Cup despite missing half the season.
1st Period
  1. The Oilers didn't take a shot on net until the 10 minute mark and they were on a power play.  
  2. It was an excruciatingly boring period.  Almost like watching the Coyotes and Wild play.  
  3. The Oilers were terrible.  T e r r i b l e !
  4. The fans were getting bored, and were very quiet.  It was eerie.  It shouldn't have been that way.
2nd Period
  1. McLellan likely inspired them in the 2nd intermission because they came out flying at that point.   Yak's sniper, penalty, and giveaway will be the last time you see that happen on that ice or in an Oilers uniform.
  2. Coliseum beer is cold.  I hate Coors Lite and Molson Canadian is one of the worst lagers ever.  Please let there be some variety at Rogers Place!  I mean, I had a full big cup of Guinness at Yankee Stadium.
  3. None of us are going to miss the stupid onscreen Esso car race game and 3 puck flippy thing. None. Of. Us.
  4. My buddy left just before for the kiss cam.   I get no love.
  5. We had great seats at the top row of the blues on the isle in front of the skyboxes.  I had never been up there before.  And I never will again!
3rd Period
  1. The 3rd period was fun to watch. Four goals.  Glad Hall, McDavid, and Draisaitl potted one.  Patrick Maroon is turning out to be the best trade transaction at the deadline in the whole league.  I am very interested to see what Chiarelli can pull off other teams.  Hello Shattenkirk!
  2. Talbot played very well and was very square to the puck.
  3. The Vancouver Canucks are an awful hockey team now.  Why the Sedins don't want to bolt out of there is beyond me.  They remind me of the 2009 Oilers, a few years after they went to the Cup final.  T e r r i b l e.
  4. When Mark the announcer guy (I'll miss THAT voice big time) said, "Last minute of play at Rexall Place" the whole crowd got up and cheered and cheered.  It was so 2006.
Farewell Celebration
  1. There were so many players' names that came out on the ice I did not recognize and I'm freaking old.
  2. There were lots of notable alumni players who weren't there.  Glen Sather and Craig MacTavish being the most notable.
  3. Many of us were holding our opinions when Kevin Lowe was talking at the podium. He's a terrible public speaker.  T e r r i b l e.
  4. Sportsnet guy John Shannon didn't hold the microphone close enough to the Oiler speaking and none of us could here.  Wake up, John! 
  5. Who doesn't love Joey Moss?  If you don't, you are a terrible human being.  T e r r i b l e.
  6. Conversely, why is there so much love for George Laraque?  I'll never understand.
  7. What Mark Messier said that everyone on the team is important and if everyone on the team  doesn't give it there all every game they have a 0 percent chance of winning, was so directed at the current team, let's hope it rings in Connor's ear.  I know it will.
  8. Why didn't Gretzky get to speak more?
  9. The last three Oilers to leave the ice were:  3.  Ryan Smyth, 2. Connor McDavid, 1. Wayne Gretzky.
After all that, I went up to several senior coliseum staff members, shook their hand and thanked them for their service to the fans.  

Lots of memories.  But too many losses in the past 9 years for anyone to take.  Let's hope the Curse of Rexall Place is gone.

Farewell.