Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Latest and so-so greatest

With some recent news, and out of sheer boredom, here's what's lining up:

RW Iiro Pakarinen (UFA) is heading to the KHL.  As he's likely not seeing a contract, in wanting to play more, not a bad move.  Speaking of KHL, former Oilers 4th liners Anton Lander and Rob Klinkhammer just won the KHL Championship and Lander was named MVP.   With Iiro the Hero gone, this opens the door for other AHLers like Tyler Benson to make their permanent marker ink them into the lineup.  Benson was pretty good when he was here and can see him sticking.

On assistant coaches, the Ducks let go of defensive assistant Trent Yawny.  Likely due to their playoff series loss to the Sharks, someone had to take the bullet.  Bob Stauffer strongly hinted that Yawny posted a pretty good PK record and would be a good fit with McLellan and that they know each other well.  Former Ottawa coach Paul MacLean, who also worked with McLellan in Detroit, then assisted with the Ducks is another option.

On goalie, it appears the Oilers are set to sign KHL goalie Koskinen to a $2.5m two year deal or something.

The Oilers I think is possible to see:

Nugent-Hopkins - McDavid - Vanek 
Lucic - Draisaitl - Puljujarvi
Aberg - Strome - Slepyshev
Caggiula - Khaira - Kassian
Benson - Rattie

Nurse - Larsson
Sekera - Faulk 
Russell - Benning


Thomas Vanek is a $2m right-shot forward UFA who with the Jackets, just got knocked out by the Caps in the first round.  He's a better option than Cammelleri.  He could slide in on the top line to bring some veteran presence.

Justin Faulk out of Carolina is one of very few potentially available right shot defensemen in a trade for Oscar Klefbom, 2019 4th round pick, and another prospect.  I highly doubt this trade happens as he's the only decent defensemen the Canes have next to Noah Hanifin.

The lineup overall though, unless Lucic, Sekera, and Talbot play way better, the bottom six and pairing are still kind of weak to be a Cup team.

Maybe the new coaches will improve the PK and PP, which was the real stinker in making a negative difference to the squad and the standings.

In the current playoff picture, I'm hoping the Jets go to the Final then lose to the Capitals, but it's looking like the Penguins are firing on all cylinders.  Again.  I still want the Oilers to be the next Canadian team to win the Cup.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Season-end player grades and season summary

Out of 10... by line:

Connor McDavid (10) -- 8 more glorious years
Art Ross scoring champ.  Miles ahead in scoring 5v5 in the league.  Without him, the Oilers are easily the worst team in the league.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (8) -- 3 more years
24 goals and a bounce-back season.  Found a groove next to McDavid.  Injury slowed him down and that's why it's not a 9/10.

Ty Rattie (7) -- RFA
Journeyman right-winger found chemistry next to McDavid where a lot of players haven't.  Will he return?  I think he does as a credible stop-gap to Yamamoto and Puljujarvi stepping in.

Milan Lucic (2) -- 5 long more years
Abysmal season.  One goal and 8 points after Christmas.  Had no gumption to his game save that fight against Tanner Glass at the end of the season.  He absolutely has to turn it around and work on his skating and shot this offseason.

Leon Draisaitl (7) -- 7 more years
Got over 70 points and was finally put on his own line to drive.  Showed signs of laziness in skating, but his work on the PK improved.  Nearly useless on the PP.

Pontus Aberg (5) -- 1 more year to RFA
From the Letestu trade, shows flashes of speed and skill.  Wasn't a big difference-maker. 

Drake Caggiula (5) -- RFA
Defensively not good enough.  Scored more at back of the season.  But he's been given every opportunity on every line in every situation.  I just don't see him here long term.

Ryan Strome (6) -- RFA
Once relegated to third line centre,t the pressure was off for him to replace Eberle's scoring. He showed that this is his best position to success.  Showed flashes of puck handling, but guy hit more posts than I can count.  Can be utilized better on the PP if he works on his shot more.

Jesse Puljujarvi (3) -- 1 more year to RFA
He seems lost at times.  It's too bad he was brought up so soon because Chiarelli couldn't find a veteran right winger--that and Strome was moved to centre because Draisaitl was often top right winger.  Not Jesse's fault per se.  He's still young and has a lot of time to develop.

Anton Slepyshev (4) -- RFA
After coming off a good playoff spark, this year was his chance to crack the top 9.  He didn't.  His shot production remains high and makes you wonder if he'd be a good fit on the 2nd PP unit.

Jujhar Khaira (7) -- 1 more year to RFA
At the first part of the season, many began to write him off.  He quickly turned around his game as a winger, then was able to easily slide in as the new fourth line centre after Letestu was traded, but his points production dropped.  It'll take a bit to get used to being a centre in the NHL, but he never has a problem dropping the mits to defend a teammate, which he likens to "family".  He's a keeper.  I always said he had the potential.

Zack Kassian (3) -- 2 more years to UFA
After slimming down and getting even fast, Kass still had lots of penalty minutes, but his scoring touch dropped and he wasn't the same.  Battled with slight injuries at times, many of us hoped he be on the 3rd line at least, but he never gained enough traction. 

Mike Cammelleri (4) -- UFA
He was an improvement over Jussi Jokinen, and provide some vet experience here and there, but with the Oilers not making the playoffs, there was no reason to play him over other younger players.

Iiro Pakarinen (3) -- RFA
Became effective on the penalty kill, but that's about it. 


Darnell Nurse (7) -- RFA
Went from the 3rd pair to 1st pair and became the Oilers best defensemen, but only 68th in league defensemen scoring.  Still prone to the odd coverage mistake, but was tasked with filling in for an ailing Klefbom and Sekera.  This certainly solidifies him as a 2nd pair guy as expected.

Adam Larsson (4) -- 3 more years to RFA
Didn't get the job done as well as last year.  His father's death took him aback. 

Oscar Klefbom (3) -- 4 years to UFA
Play dropped off due to playing injured. 

Kris Russell (6) -- 3 years to UFA
Stepped up a bit more than last year.  Shot blocking king.  Scored a bit more, but his underlying numbers still aren't up to par in defensive possession and coverage.

Andrej Sekera (2) -- 4 long years to UFA
Didn't even score a goal.  Never fully recovered from injury.

Matt Benning (4) -- RFA
Was expecting him to step up, but with the defensive injuries, had to play above his ability at a young age.  Did some remarkable hits and goals and was the best Oilers defensemen in point per game.

Yohann Auvitu (6) -- UFA
Impressive in the offensive zone, has a great attitude and work ethic.  Poor in defensive coverage.

Ethan Bear (5) -- 1 to RFA
Shows offensive promise but needs to work on defensive skating and coverage.


Cam Talbot (3) -- 1 to UFA
The poor penalty kill killed his save percentage. Had some good games, but was pulled way too often and didn't make those two extra saves needed in a lot of games.

Al Montoya (4) -- 1 to UFA
Saved Talbot's butt on more than one occasion, but he's just not quite good enough of a backup to push Talbot to be better.

Laurent Brossoit (3) -- UFA
Had every opportunity to show he could stick as the backup and it didn't happen.  He's UFA, so it's tough to see if he returns.  I predicted Ellis would overtake LB and although that didn't happen, it's likely to happen July 1.

So about 1/3 of the players are above average.  That's simply not good enough to get an edge on other teams.


I believe the defense was hanging by a thread as it was and with two injuries to two key scoring d-men, the failure here trickled through the penalty kill, to goaltending, and in not getting the puck up enough to the forwards, and thus winger scoring was atrocious.  This killed the team confidence and after a terrible start, they never fully recovered as a team.  With that, the primary blame is on Chiarelli for not shoring up a better defense by making a deal.  He was certainly active in trying it.  That said, Johnson's stupid "L" PK formation and keeping Letestu on it was just stubborn.  Woodcroft's powerplay lineups and formations never clicked.  At least five on five, McLellan had them playing not terribly, but still, not good enough.

Changes I'd like to see:
  • Johnson and Woodcroft let go of their assistant coaching duties -- worst ever
  • Sign a top 6 right winger UFA veteran -- Vanek would be nice
  • Sign or trade for a top 4 right shot defenseman -- I wouldn't mind Karlsson for a short term solution, however unlikely that will happen
  • Chiarelli not using good players to make a trade, except for Klefbom because he's the only tradeable asset you can do to get a right shot defensemen the other way

Changes that won't happen:

  • Lucic moved 
  • Talbot traded
Free Agents:
  • Everyone gets signed except for Cammelleri
  • Nurse will get the same contract that Klefbom got
  • Benning will get two years at $1.5m each
  • Caggiula and Slepyshev will get two years at $1.275m each
  • Rattie and Pakarinen will get another year at $900k but Pak will get waived at some point and clear again
  • Strome will get extended 3 years at $2.75m each
Lineup to start 2018-19:

Nuge - McDavid - Rattie
Lucic - Draisaitl - Vanek
Aberg - Strome - Puljujarvi
Caggiula - Khaira - Kassian/Slepyshev

Nurse - Larsson

Sekera - (traded for Klefbom and a forward)
Russel - Benning

Auvitu - Bear

Montoya -- who'll get traded before December