Halfway through the season and much has changed in Oilerville. There’s a new head coach, David Perron is in Utopia, Marcobello lives in a land called Honalee. We got that 2C, it was Derek Roy all along. Leon went back to junior, he hasn’t written yet but it’s a busy time and he’s young and having fun. Darnell won Gold at the World Juniors and everyone said he played real good. Anyway, I better run, thought it would be nice to look back and see how much has changed since the leaves turned.
OPENING NIGHT OILERS, 2014-15
- Scratches: Will Acton, Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse
- Goal: Ben Scrivens, Viktor Fasth
- 1line: Hall—Nuge—Eberle
- 2line: Perron—Arcobello—Purcell
- 3line: Pouliot—Draisaitl—Yakupov
- 4line: Hendricks—Gordon—Joensuu
- 1D: Hunt—Schultz
- 2D: Ference—Petry
- 3D: Nikitin—Fayne
That team lost to Calgary (mostly because Ben handled the puck like a grenade) but you can’t stop Mason Raymond you can only hope to contain him. Among the men who were the in Oilers silks for the pre-game skate, Acton, Nurse, Perron, Arocbello, Joensuu and Hunt are either in another NHL city, in junior, in the minors or hovering over Finland.
As I see it, Craig MacTavish has very little chance of icing a balanced roster in the fall of 2015. The sheer number of players who are signed, likely not trade worthy and who will clog up the works is quite large:
- G Ben Scrivens, another year at $2.3M and this time a backup role likely.
- D Niki Nikitin, who will be paid $4.5M if the Oilers don’t buy him out.
- D Andrew Ference, $3.25M cap hit and not fast enough to serve a mentor role at this point in his career.
- R Teddy Purcell, $4.5M of replacement-level winger.
- L Luke Gazdic, $850,000 enforcer, which is the Edsel of hockey roles but it hasn’t gotten this far north.
That’s 21 per cent of a 23-man roster. That’s a lot of money too, over $17 million towards the cap and honestly not close to that in real value. The other problem? Edmonton will be breaking in/waiting on several younger players/rookies:
- G LaurentBrossoit, he may well be the third man in the goalie rotation next year.
- D Justin Schultz, miles beyond his actual ability, Edmonton sees him as a center cluster piece.
- D Oscar Klefbom, a fine young player but he’s not there yet and will be flawed next season too.
- D Darnell Nurse, another rookie blue (and a talented one to be sure).
- D Martin Marincin, every game he doesn’t play this year adds inexperience to next year’s blue.
- C Leon Draisaitl, young man will be a big part of next year’s opening night lineup, as he was this year.
- C McDavid/Eichel/Strome, can’t imagine Edmonton showing any degree of patience (nor should they with McDavid or Eichel).
- R Nail Yakupov, who may be sent away but it’s also possible he stays.
Which leaves us with the “heart” of the team for 2015-16:
- D Mark Fayne, the only ‘prime time’ option on blue next season. They need more D in this age range.
- C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, a brilliant young player still reaching for the stars.
- L Taylor Hall, hopefully he’ll be healthy and brilliant.
- R Jordan Eberle, the third amigo for what has to be an impact line in 2015-16.
- L Benoit Pouliot, a solid (imo) physical winger who can play up and down the lineup.
- C Boyd Gordon, a very effective checker.
- L Matt Hendricks, I take back everything said about him at the time of the trade. He’s quality in that checking role.
Seven. 30% of the roster we can safely call ‘actual NHL players’ and expect they won’t erode between now and April 2016 (Hendricks and Gordon are a bit of a worry there, too).
DETROIT ROCK CITY
Matty has Jeff Petry moving on to the Red Wings (or at least pointing to a landing). The players Matheson mentioned are interesting but for my money keeping Petry remains the better plan.
- Ryan Sproul. He’s a very useful young player, has size and some jam but the real appeal is offense. He has 45 points in his first 102 AHL games and was an exceptional offensive defender in junior. He’s also a former teammate of Darnell Nurse in SSM.
- Tomas Jurco. He has size and speed, plus enough skill to be a very interesting young player. Oilers may see him as a reasonable replacement for Yakupov on whatever they’re calling his line now.
LOSERS WISH FOR LOSING
Lots of comments online and even an MSM article about the bad bad fans who cheer for losses and have begun to focus on the McDavid—Eichel sweepstakes. I find the movement interesting, as no one in the group appears to have noticed the Oilers are losing better than anyone, so this is our reality. It’s also true that this year’s draft—uniquely over the past ten years—contains an empire builder hockey player (or two). You are free to cheer for wins or losses or fights or draft picks or icings. It is not my job nor my right (nor the msm’s or twitter commenters) to tell you to be ashamed for aligning yourself with a particular portion of the fan base. You are free to roam about the earth cheering and jeering as you please, as long as you don’t harm others in doing so.
If Craig MacTavish is spending his days and nights trying to procure wins this season, he isn’t doing his job. That’s the reality of the situation. The Edmonton Oilers being involved in the McDavid—Eichel sweepstakes has literally nothing to do with the fans, they did it all by their lonesome.
There was a time when the MSM put pen to paper and had an enormous impact on the fan base. Those days are gone. I’ll leave it to others for reasons and commentary, but do want to encourage you to spend zero minutes fretting about what you’re cheering for this season. Cheer for wins, cheer for goals, cheer for McDavid. None of it makes you a bad fan, and shame shame shame on those who tell you it does. Good grief what a terrible thing to do. Frankly it’s ridiculous.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, TSN 1260. Scheduled to appear:
- Steve Lansky, Bigmouth Sports. Leafs fire Carlyle, JP Parise passes.
- Eric Rodgers, Tend the Farm. We’ll get a Barons update, post your questions!
- Corey Graham, Oil Kings pbp for TSN1260. Three games in three nights for the OK’s, plus deadline and Bob Green.
- Jeff Chapman from Copper and Blue helps tee up tonight’s game.
10-1260 text @Lowetide_ on twitter. See you on the radio!