Friday, October 21, 2022

NHL Retro Jerseys

 Wow, it's been three years since I last posted on this blog about the Oilers and a whole lot has happened since. I won't get into it because if you're reading this, then you already know as you follow the team.

So let's get right into it.  Let's talk about the new NHL retro jerseys by Addidas that dropped.  By "retro" they mean mostly the 1990s.  Because when I think "retro", I think 90s, right?  Ugh.  Anyway, here they are, but you might want some 3D glasses for some of these.  Now THAT would be retro.

We'll start at the left and go across then down...

First off, these are all terrible.  And look at the models.  Where are they looking?  Do they know what a hockey is?


Panthers:  When I think hockey, I think palm trees and hockey sticks, don't you?  1/10
Habs:  Light blue as well?  Why?  What else is different?  3/10
Wings:  Straight words are dull when you have one of the coolest logos in the league and don't use it. It looks like a college sweatshirt.  1/10
Flames:  Now this is actually a retro they had and wasn't too shabby as it was the first time the black came out.  But that angled line brings it down a notch.  6/10

Oilers:  I never liked the MacFarlane logo and jersey when it came out, but with the orange, it's a little better.  If the logo was replaced with the usual Oilers logo in a reverse scheme, then these would be better.  5/10
Jets:  What's with the light blue?  (See Panthers and Habs).  I like their old logo and their "new" one, but without any red, it's dull.  4/10
Bolts:  One of the worst logos back then.  3/10.
Leaves:  The look on that model's face says it all.  If we were to do a playoff style contest for these jerseys, then the Leaves wouldn't make it past the first round here either.

Ducks:  There you go!  Quack mask is back!  7/10
Sabres:  That buffalo is a marshmellow.  2/10
Bruins:  Awwwww.  He so cute.  But no.  3/10

Preds:  NOW YOU'RE TALKING!  That tiger predator is a mean machine logo.  8/10
Blues:  You're the BLUES not the YELLOWS.  4/10
Yotes:  Um. I had to zoom in to be sure.  This is pukey.  2/10

Wild:  Beauty throw back to the North Star colours.  Couldn't stand the team then, can't stand them now--that includes all of Minnesota, but these retros are sharp.  8/10
Stars:  Meh. 5/10.  Is Todd Nelson still an assistant coach there?
???:  I do not even know what team this is.  0/10

Kraken:  A nice shout out to the ol' Metropolitans, but the logo is not retro. It's sooo 2020.  4/10
Sharks:  The Seals!  That's the way.  9/10.

Canes:  C A N E S.  Woo wee.  woo.  Shoulda gone black.  3/10.
Avs:  Yes!  Colorado Rockies means Don Cherry, right?  Keep your promises.  8/10
Hawks:  C H I C A G O.  Avoiding the whole head thing.  So many options, so little time.  Like  D E T R O I T, they get 1/10.

Caps:  Eagle Fang!  Yeah!  9/10
Rangers:  Ms. Liberty was always a cool logo.  9/10
Jackets:  Same ol' logo.  Blah.  3/10

Sens:  Isn't it their jersey now?  At least it doesn't say O T T A W A.  2/10  
Knights:  V E G A S.  Ugh.  1/10
Pens:  YES!  Sharp AF.  Good logo throwback.  8/10
Flyers:  Indeed but not as sharp as the Pens but close.  7/10.  9/10 if the Cooperalls are included.

Kings:  Oh heck yeah.  Thems the colours before Gretzky got there.  9/10
Devils:  Orange?  No no!  Shoulda gone green like in Seinfeld.  But still, pretty cool.  7/10
Islanders:  Ahoy mateys!  Fishsticks are back!   The worst logo and jersey when it first came out and I didn't think they'd ever do it again, but this takes balls 10/10.

Which ones do you like and hate?

Monday, January 7, 2019

Chiarelli's December 2018 moves puts defense lineup into a pickle

Here's what Oilers GM Chiarelli did in and around December 2018:

Claimed F Valentin Zykov from Carolina on waivers and four weeks later, was waived then claimed by Vegas:

  • The 2017/18 AHL leading scorer didn't make an impression

Called up D Caleb Jones:

  • He's turned out to be rather solid, yet with some rookie mistakes, he'd likely stick but with the loaded defense, he'll be sent down without having to clear waivers to make room for Oscar Klefbom

Traded RD Chris Wideman and a 2019 3rd round pick to the Florida Panthers for local guy RD Alexander Petrovic:

  • Not a bad trade as Petrovic is a slight upgrade on Wideman defensively

Traded F Drake Caggiula and LD Garrison to the Chicago Blackhawks for McDavid collarbone killer LD Brandon Manning and D Robin Norell (who's in Sweden):

  • No one liked this trade except for David Staples not minding the ridding of Caggiula, who is poor defensively
  • It made no sense to let go of an ok scoring winger for a loaded defensive left side and weighed down with a contract into next season.  You'd think with Jones and Gravel playing well, there wasn't a need to swap help
  • No idea who Norell is

Called up F Kailer Yamamoto, who played one game until being put on IR:

  • Having a lack of scoring wingers makes one dip into the farm.  Then look what happens.
Called up F Joseph Gambardella:
  • He was top scorer in Bakersfield, so he deserved a look
  • He's playing ahead of Spooner, so that makes the Strome for Spooner trade look like the dumbest thing Chiarelli has done this season
Now the roster looks like this based on the lineup versus the Ducks:

Benched:  F Ryan Spooner, LD Brandon Manning, RD Matt Benning

Forward lines:
That's a lot of red showing on the wings.  Yeesh.

Defense pairs:
Hold on there, Jones (#4 LD) ranks higher than Nurse (#57 LD)?   

The near future for forwards:

Kassian (UFA 2020) is currently on the top line, I believe he and his $1.95m are being pumped and dumped at the trade deadline, but if he stays, I'm okay with it.

Lucic (UFA 2023) - The only way out for Lucic is if he waives his no movement clause or he gets injured.  Bob Stauffer hinted Lucic is having eye issues (whatever that means).  He's not playing enough or hard enough to get injured.  It's time he was benched, but if you do that, then he becomes less tradeable.  Buying him out is way too pricey.

Chiasson (UFA) most certainly deserves another contract.  He'll be a personal record high 20 goal scorer this year, so I'd consider a 1-2 year deal at $1.5m AAV.  But the Oilers will cave and give him $2.0m at least. 

Spooner (UFA 2020).  Buy out.  Untradeable except for high round picks.  That Strome trade looks so bad.  Or trade him for Eberle!  HAHAHA!!!  No seriously.  Why not try?

Rieder (RFA) has zero goals.  I said from the beginning he's not a top six guy, yet there he is.  Useful on the PK but despite his good speed hasn't been able to finish.

Rattie (RFA) should be playing and should be resigned. He's a useful winger with chemistry with McDavid.  I'd go $1.5m AAV for 2 years.

Khaira (RFA) mostly definitely be resigned.  Very useful player as a centre and winger.  If Kassian is moved, this opens up space for a $1.5m AAV 2-3 year contract.

The near future for defense:

Based on the best 6 d-men, a healthy defense going into the second half of the season looks like:

Klefbom - Larsson
Nurse - Russell
Gravel - Jones
Sekera - Petrovic
Manning - Benning

Madness.  10 d-men?

For Russell, on July 1, a no movement clause kicks in and he can list 10 teams to be traded to.  With the emergence of Jones being able to play both sides I'm sure Chiarelli, or whoever the GM is then, will call every one of those teams to see about moving his $4m contract for draft picks.

With Sekera returning before the trade deadline, on July 1, his no movement clause kicks in and he can list 15 teams.  Same deal on moving him as Russell.  But the only easy answer is to send Jones down because you don't need to waive him, where the others you do.   Lineup:

Klefbom - Larsson
Nurse - Russell
Sekera - Petrovic
Gravel - Benning

That's still 1-2 too many d-men on the roster.  Someone has to go.

Gravel (UFA) deserves to stay.  He's a pretty solid 3 pairing guy.

Petrovic (UFA), we'll see.  They traded Wideman which they didn't trade for but traded him and a 2019 3rd.  So if you waive him, you lost that pick for nothing.  

Manning, why?  If you waive him, he won't get claimed, and you'll have a $2.5m guy playing in the AHL.  

Benning will get moved eventually.  Bouchard will replace him next year, so I can see Benning being moved here.  I always thought Caggiula, Benning, and the 2019 3rd pick would get moved for a decent winger.

But sadly, Gravel is quite tradeable once Sekera returns.

This is quite the pickle.  

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Looking ahead to post-season 2019

There's been some talk about a few boat anchor contracts that need to be dealt with in order to make room to sign several RFAs come July 1, 2019.  The forward RFAs are all proving their worth in the preseason thus far.  Whether that translates to regular season results obviously remains to be seen.  But visually, seeing them up close the other night versus the Canucks, the speed and hockey sense is there for all three of them, except one.

Here is what I predict Chiarelli will deal with the RFAs:

  1. Ty Rattie #8 (current $800k)Based on his 4 game 10 point pre-season performance, he's currently on pace for 191 goals and 273 points.  Highly unlikely.  If he scores more than 20 goals, he'll get $3.5m AAV for 3 or 4 years.  If he gets 30, then he'll be in the $4.0-$4.5m territory.
  2. Jesse Puljujarvi #98 (current $925k)If he scores more than 20 goals, he'll get a bridge contract at $3.85m AAV for 2 years.
  3. Jujhar Khaira #16 (current $675k)If he scores 10 goals and stays on the third line, $2.5mm AAV for 3 years wouldn't be out of the question.
  4. Tobias Rieder (current $2m)
    Like Jokinen and Cammalleri, Rieder is one of those fill-in stop-gap guys until a drafted prospect develops to take his place. If he contributes and scores 10 goals, he could remain at $2m for another year.
  5. Pontus Aberg #46 (current $650k)When Chaisson makes the team, I can see Aberg and Caggiula sitting in the pressbox.  At this point, I don't see him getting re-signed.  The Oilers may pump and dump him.
  6. Cam Talbot #33 (current $4.167m)He's at $4.16m.  If his save percentage stays above .920 and Oilers make the playoffs, it's possible he could get bumped to $5m or more.

That's a top end total of $16.85m where currently, all six of these guys total $9.217m, so that's a $7.63m increase on the cap. 

If the league cap remains the same at $79.5m, the Oilers will have $14.2m in cap space

So $14.2m minus $16.85m is -$2.65m over the cap, meaning some trades for picks will need to happen.

If Sekera returns, his $5.5m AAV returns so let's be conservative and not count on him forever being on LTIR.

Many are predicting Alex Chaisson makes the team. Last year he was paid $660k, and I can see him being signed for $800k.  If he has a decent year, a $1m contract for 2019 isn't out of the realm of possibility, especially if Caggiula makes $1.5m.

So that makes 2019 -$3.65m over.

Then Chiarelli needs to sign a backup goalie again because no prospect in the Bake is NHL ready.  If Koskinen actually pans out, then he'll want another ridiculous $2.5m AAV for at least a year.

Now they're -$6.15m over.

But wait!  They only have six defensemen signed for next year. 
If Bouchard sticks, that's +$925m.

Now they're -$7.075m over.

But wait!  Add Yamamoto's ELC coin because he's making the team too.  That's +$894,166m.

Now they're -$7.969m over.  

Now consider trading these guys for draft picks:
Caggiula @ $1.5m
Kassian @ $1.95m
= $3.45m

Now they're down to -$4.52m over.

Let's say realistically the cap goes up in 2019 to $2m.

Now they're only -$2.52m over.

That means Chiarelli likely can't re-sign Rieder ($2m) AND Chaisson ($800k).

That puts them at $780k under the cap.

So, they'll expect one or two prospects like Benson ($808k), MacLeod (?) and Marody ($925k) to step up.

But that's still not enough.  They'll need to shed another contract or limit the bids on the aforementioned RFAs.  Maybe Khaira signs for $1.5m not $2.5m, saving $1m. 

Now they're $1.78m under the cap.  Benson (+$808k) and MacLeod (say the same as Marody at $925k) = $1.73m.

Which finally puts them at $0.05k under the cap.


Chiarelli has to seriously look at trading one or two boat anchor contracts like Kris Russell and Milan Lucic.  That's $10m in cap space right there.  Kris Russell I can see happening because his no movement clause allows him to pick 10 teams next year, but Lucic's contract is far more difficult.

For the rightshot defensemen, I'm also thinking if Bouchard and Bear both have good years, you could see Benning moved at the deadline in 2020, because he'll want more coin, negating half of Russell's traded AAV.

Ok after all that brainstorm and thunder, what does the team look like starting in October 2019? Not much changes from this season start except the 4th line.

October 2019:
Trades:  Caggiula, Kassian

Nuge - McDavid - Rattie
Lucic - Draisaitl - Puljujarvi
Khaira - Strome - Yamamoto
Benson - Brodziak - MacLeod

Klefbom - Larsson
Nurse - Benning
(Sekera?)Russell - Bouchard


Trade deadline 2020:
Trades: Russell, Benning

Nuge - McDavid - Rattie
Lucic - Draisaitl - Puljujarvi
Khaira - Strome - Yamamoto
Benson - Brodziak - MacLeod

Klefbom - Larsson
Nurse - Bouchard
Jones or Lowe - Bear


So what you're seeing this season is the top 9 forwards and top 3 defensemen forming a core of 12 players--13 including Talbot.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Loooooch and more...

Well-substantiated discussions are on that the Oilers are looking to trade Milan Lucic.  After coming off his worst season in memory, a scoring-drought over over 40 games, and him admitting his confidence was down and needs to get faster, you'd have to ask can you blame anyone on either side for having a look?

A straight buyout on his 5 x $6.0M AAV salary is dumb. 

Ryan Rishaug from TSN 1260 doesn't think a trade is doable and they should see how the next year goes.

David Staples at the Journal's Cult of Hockey think trading him is a possibility, as there still is a market for tough guys (see Tom Wilson).

I think Chiarelli is weighing his options to see what the market is for him.

Lucic knows he needs to be better, gain confidence, become leaner and faster.  His humility here is important.  Both Kassian and Maroon leaned up, why can't Lucic?

All this though, I also believe that Lucic is simply disappointed that he couldn't find chemistry as McDavid's left wing with Maroon taking that spot and at $4.5m less to boot.  When Maroon was traded, I bet management pressured McLellan to try Lucic there again.  Well, it didn't work out at all.  Then finally, Nuge was put there while Lucic was with Draisaitl on the 2nd line.  

Further to that, Lucic's time on the 1st powerplay unit, where he scored most of his goals two seasons ago, ended.  

I think those two factors are where he lost his confidence.

But let's back up a sec.

The Oilers powerplay was horrendous last season under Jay Woodcroft (and the penalty kill certainly made the special).  With new assistant coaches, they can only improve, right?  

Manny Viveiros' powerplay record as coach of Swift Current in the WHL was over 29%.  He believes in movement and quick passes--totally opposite of what the Oilers did last year--standing around, holding on to the puck, and forced passes.  I submit if they put Puljujarvi on the left half-wall to fire away, they'll be more successful as well.  And perhaps Viveiros sees Lucic slotting back in here to cause havoc in front of the net and getting some garbage and tip in goals.  Having Benning as a righty to McDavid's lefty makes for easier passes between two.  

Ideally though, you'd want a righty where Lucic is as well so Draisaitl can easily pass to him or McDavid from behind the net.  Maybe Strome?

Puljujarvi - Lucic - McDavid

Five on five will a Lucic - Draisaitl - Puljujarvi line finally work or does it need more speed?

With Slepyshev heading to the KHL, Pakarainen gone, and the unlikely resigning of Mike Cammalleri, the forward line up is a bit skimp.  If they don't sign a UFA right winger, I can't see anyone else but Yamamoto taking a spot out of camp. 

Nuge - McDavid - Rattie
Lucic - Draisaitl - Puljujarvi
Aberg - Strome - Yamamoto
Caggiula - Khaira - Kassian

Other than Nuge, that's not exactly a team that's strong on the wings like it used to be with only three real veterans on there (Nuge, Lucic, Kassian).  With that, my guess is they make a play for a UFA right winger as there appears to be a preference by Chiarelli to have an older veteran guy in the lineup.

So who can they afford?

RFAs to resign (my guess):
$3.0m Strome
$2.0m Caggiula
$4.0m Nurse 
$2.5m Benning

$11.5m + $58.3m = $70.3m leaves them with about $8-10m in cap space.

That's certainly enough to sign a UFA winger, say James Neal from Vegas?  But it doesn't leave much room to sign another bottom six forward or coveted right shot defensemen unless you trade Klefbom for it as well.

So what about Looch?
There's still room for him on this team and he must bounce back if he wants a future in the league with that contract.

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

Monday, March 12, 2018

Oilers improve a bit after trade deadline - Why?

The Oilers have been playing much better hockey after the trade deadline.  It took them a few games to adjust to the new units and lines, but they appear to be hitting some sort of stride.  They look a little faster.  Is it because Nuge is back?  That's a big part of it, yes.  But he was here when the Oilers weren't playing well. 

McLellan boggles my mind sometimes.  With Maroon traded for pucks, he goes BACK to using slumping boat anchor Lucic on McDavid's wing.  Well, for the zillionth time--it doesn't work.  So what to do?

Everyone called for Nuge to be moved to McDavid's left wing.  McLellan finally tried it versus the Wild and it worked.

Further, in the past six games, the Oilers have been on the penalty kill 13 times.  Only 1 goal!  That's a 93% PK.  Wait, what?  They must have been on the road as their road PK is much better than at home, right?  Nope.  Five out of six games were at home.

What's going on?  Seriously.  Is this really a "fire Johnson" thing?  Perhaps it's not.

David Staples over at the Journal - Cult of Hockey Blog was tweeting about one potential culprit and the improvement of another. 

Mark Letestu as the culprit and Cam Tablot as the improvement.

Since 4C Mark Letestu was traded at the deadline for a faster winger Pontus Aberg, coach McLellan has had to adjust the PK units.  Letestu was already off the top PP unit with Strome filling in.

There was also discussion that the PK unit had too many lefties which opened the passing lanes.  Perhaps that's why Letestu was kept on, as he's a righty.  But so are Kassian, Larsson, and Pakarinen, so I'm not really buying that one.

Before we examine those PK units, let's start by showing how the PK did with and without Letestu.

Well that doesn't look very good. 

That's better.


Now what about Cam Talbot?  We need to look at his save percentage 5v5 versus on the PK.

Even Strength Save Percentage:
.916 before trade deadline (Feb 26, 2018)
.920 after trade deadline

Shorthanded (PK) Save Percentage:
.967 before trade deadline (Feb 26, 2018)
1.00 after trade deadline (!)

Yes, improved.  Hmmmm.  Now is the PK better because he's better, or is he better because the PK is better?

In doing some further digging, I found this very interesting article at Copper and Blue regarding the "L" PK formation.  A lot of teams use the box or diamond.  Oilers don't.  Good power play teams figured this out and made the cross-ice pass to the weak side leading to a goal.  Talbot's better play last year covered up this glaring weakness.

Look below at where Letestu would be on the PK in an "L" formation (in this case a backwards "L").  He's likely at the top or in the middle on the left half-wall ("55" on right side in diagram below).  If teams get the puck on the half-wall, sure they can't swing it around the outside against the "L", but if your defender on half-wall doesn't get there in time or backs off, that leaves the entire weak side open for a shot, or action down low. 

Leon Draisaitl isn't very good here either.  But then we have to ask, if the players can't adjust to the system, then either the system is bad or the player is bad.  If the coaches kept putting bad players on the PK, then that's just bad coaching.  But you have to ask if this "L" system is good at all when the Oilers have BY FAR THE WORST PENALTY KILL IN NHL HISTORY over the past year.  That can't be just the players, can it?

McLellan's stubbornness here and not employing the right lines until way after it was already a good idea certainly has made us armchair fans and media pundits cringe, but think of the players and losing their confidence in said system.  When they lose confidence in a system, they tend to not play as hard for it to work and it crumbles.  Think about Eakins' "Swarm" 5v5 defensive system.  Total disaster.  Players couldn't make it work.  They lose confidence in the system and then the coach.  Coach loses his mind.

Good coaches look at their talent and make the system fit that talent.  Amazing systems can take any good talent and make it work, but often, those systems are complex and require lots of practice.

In Letestu's case, last year on the power play, he was pretty darn good himself on the left wing weak side to take a one timer cross-ice pass from McDavid.  He even got a couple shortys on the PK.  He was also pretty good on the shoot out.  Something happened.  Age?  The league got faster?

So, as you watch the remaining games, take note of the Oilers penalty kill and watch for:

1.  Formation:  "L", Box, or Diamond?

2.  Who is the middle forward defending the left half wall?  Is he covering that guy well and preventing a cross-ice pass?

3.  How's Talbot doing?  Is he pushing hard enough across when the cross-ice pass is made?

If special teams is solved with these minor tweaks, then Talbot will be better, and the Oilers can be better.  Not great, but better.