There are words and phrases I’ll never ever enjoy again because of the Oilers 2013-15: bold, relentless, swarm, visually better, Norris Trophy, forensics, BCJHL. One name I’m warming to: Todd Nelson. This courtesy Lucinius in last night’s thread:
- 7-19-5 under Eakins (-39 goal differential, averaged 2.1 goals for, 3.39 goals against)
- 0-3-2 under MacT/Nelson (-9 goal differential, averaged 2.2 goals for, 4.0 goals against)
- 7-6-2 under Nelson (-1 goal differential, averaging 2.93 goals for, 3 goals against)
Call it voodoo he do, call it damnable timing, call it the whims of the hockey Gods. There’s no denying the Oilers (so far) are winning more games under Todd Nelson.
IT’S ONLY WORDS
I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying. (Shawshank Redemption)
Dallas Eakins was on TSN’s Analytics show Saturday and spoke of many things.
- EAKINS: “They approached me unexpectedly. I had some other opportunities and was sold a bill of goods to come in and grow and try to push a team in a certain direction. Looking back I think we would have made the same choice. I think we made some huge improvements from last year to this year.”
The ‘sold a bill of goods’ line can’t sit well with MacT, unless I misread the tone (Mrs. Lowetide says I’m no good at it). That’s not really the “I had my chance and am looking forward to the next one but it’s all on me” that we usually hear. Then again, Eakins didn’t exactly get the Cadillac roster treatment, especially at center. I think it’s likely Eakins simply used an unfortunate turn of phrase, it never appeared there was a rift between the two men.
- EAKINS: “When I took the job the grand plan behind closed doors was to get going in the right direction by year three, get a little taste, when we went into the new building we’d be able to have a team to win a couple of rounds in the playoffs.”
I think we know this to be true, the original Lowe timeline was always five years and there is no urgency in the organization. David Perron being sent away is the obvious tell this season, Daryl Katz is more concerned about 2016-17, which makes 2014-15 difficult to live through for fans.
- EAKINS: “This is an organization that is going to have to be patient and do things the right way.”
Yeah. I don’t think the fans are going to write that on the subway walls and tenement halls and I do not think we’ll hear the sounds of silence at the next meeting of the season-ticket holders.
- EAKINS: “Nail is resilient, he is extremely hard working and he wants to be successful. The problem this young man has is he was picked No. 1 overall. He’s an inexperienced player, he had some good stats in that short season, he had an extremely high shooting percentage. What you’re seeing is a young player going through struggles and a lot of young players go through them. And a lot of them go unnoticed because they’re not the number one pick overall.”
I think coach Eakins—like Ralph Krueger before him—tried to unlock the key to a pretty complicated young man. This quote is perhaps the most insightful in the entire interview. I read frustration in those words but also genuine caring. I think sometimes we as fans look for some deeper answer than ‘he’s young and learning and it’s hard road’ but there you are. Patience? Really? Yes. Really.
I think Dallas Eakins will get another chance, but through his interviews as Oilers coach and now there does seem to be a lack of ownership for errors made by the coach. Now, that’s no big deal when you’re successful—Punch Imlach spent a decade in Toronto saying “I won” or “they lost”—but it may be perceived as a character flaw in Eakins makeup. Perhaps some time away will help the process.
SCOUTING THE 2015 DRAFT
The good folks at the Prince George Citizen informed us Craig MacTavish was on a scouting trip on the weekend and even supplied a list of players who the GM might have been looking at:
This is a fine group of players but the Oilers can’t be interested in all of them equally. Let’s dig a little deeper.
- MacTavish kept close watch on the most likely draft-eligible candidates – Mathew Barzal, Ryan Gropp, Keegan Kolesar and Ethan Bear of the T-birds and Jansen Harkins, Brad Morrison, Jared Bethune, Tate Olson and San Ruopp of the Cougars. Source
So if those names were being observed, how many would Edmonton have a shot at? Let’s have a look!
- Mathew Barzal (CS N0. 9)—Oilers will have chosen either Hanifin or Strome by the time Barzal’s name is announced. I think he’ll be top 10, Barzal is bringing it after his injury and word is the young man is extremely skilled. The injury may mean he’s underrated on draft day ala Logan Couture.
- C Jansen Harkins (CS No. 18)—Cody Nickolet calls him the smartest WHL player in the draft and he has two-way ability. I don’t think he’ll be around for the Oilers second pick in the first round (the Penguins pick from the Perron deal) but if he makes it Harkins would be a great selection.
- L Ryan Gropp (CS No. 62)—He might last until the third round but there appears to be a player here. Nickolet liked him plenty: While I still think he’s a fairly one-dimensional player, the skills he brings to the table are quite high-end. He’s got a nice frame and skates well for his size, possessing speed and power. He’s also got a very electric shot with a sharp release.
- R Keegan Kolesar (No. 94)—Nickolet calls him rugged and describes a player rising up his 2015 draft list. April birthday, 6.01 and he should score 25-30 goals this season. Fourth round option? Maybe.
- C Jared Bethune (CS No. 101)—Nickolet says he skates well and has some offense. He must be a ‘saw him good’ type, there’s nothing in the math that indicates a special player. This is where we need TOI (more in a minute).
- D Tate Olson (CS No. 106)—Good size, he was highly rated at one point but appears to be falling in his draft season. Big kid, if he’s a good skater, Edmonton is probably interested in him.
- D Nathan Bear (CS No. 133)—Nickolet: He’s a good skater and likes to play transition hockey. He really excels in the offensive portion of the game, advancing the puck up the ice and owning a bomb of a shot with a quick slapshot one-timer release. He’s 5.11, 204 and he kind of sounds like an Oilers pick (their smaller blue are usually offensive types like Hunt and Laleggia) and the skating and transition game are interesting. Fifth round pick? Seems like a reasonable bet.
- C Brad Morrison (CS No. 150)—Nickolet: He’s not big, listed at only 161 pounds, but he’s 5’11 and is very quick and speedy. He’s not afraid to dart in and out of traffic and should be tough to handle once he adds more bulk to his frame. He’s skilled, suspect he could go higher.
- D Sam Ruopp (Not Ranked)—Big kid, he’ll be 19 on draft day. He doesn’t skate well but is a good defensive player and logs tons of minutes. Among WHL overagers, I’m strong on Dryden Hunt, Rihards Burkarts, Reid Gardner, Trevor Cox, Parker Bowles and Ivan Nikolishin. Ruopp would not make my list of 10 overagers from the WHL.
EST TOI AND EST POINTS-PER-60
- Jansen Harkins 23.5 minutes, 2.98/60
- Brad Morrison 18.27 minutes 2.60/60
- Ryan Gropp 23.72 minutes, 2.30/60
- Mathew Barzal 28.75 minutes, 2.18/60
- Keegan Kolesar 17.09 minutes, 2.11/60
- Nathan Bear 23.64 minutes, 1.57/60
- Jared Bethune 16 minutes, 1.57/60
- Tate Olson 20.93, 1.18/60
- Sam Ruopp 27 minutes, 0.92/60
Information from this wonderful site. Barzal’s numbers should improve now that he’s back but that Morrison kid is delivering solid production and could be a draft sleeper. Harkins is a guy who probably delivers exceptional value after No. 20 in the draft based on what we read and see here. Question: Would you like to see this for more CHL teams? Let me know. It’s an interesting exercise.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) February 3, 2015
The Oilers will never learn. They just cannot get it through their heads that injuries require time to heal and that ‘rub some dirt in it’ mentality is a loser’s bet. Hall coming up hurt in the first return game is so damn typical. Oh, those Oilers. If they went Opposite George tomorrow they’d do themselves and their players an enormous favor. It sounds like the tweak on Hall was just that but the Pouliot item is a concern too. He’s a productive player and losing Pouliot is not cool. Need him back.
Last night’s game showed some pretty nice numbers for that blue, especially the young hires. Oscar Klefbom seems to be announcing his presence with authority more often and the math and saw him good crowds are ooing and awing in unison.
- Oscar Klefbom 62% zone start, 29-18 EV Corsi, 62%
- Justin Schultz 81% zone start, 35-25 EV Corsi, 58%
- Jeff Petry 73% zone start, 24-25 EV Corsi, 49%
- Keith Aulie 45% zone start, 15-23 EV Corsi, 39%
- Andrew Ference 75% zone start, 12-22 EV Corsi, 35%
- Mark Fayne 62% zone start, 13-27 EV Corsi, 32%
The Klefbom—Schultz pairing appears to have some traction. That one pairing could be key for next season. I think Todd Nelson, being a coach (they all like veteran blue), will probably marry Nikitin with Fayne (or Ference with Fayne) and the club may go shopping in summer for a significant player to pair with Darnell Nurse. Brent Seabrook anyone?
It’s fun to watch these kids head in a good direction but the important thing to keep in mind is improved quality and depth of roster. Todd Nelson has poured some sugar on Anton Lander, Oscar Klefbom, Justin Schultz, Matt Fraser and Nail Yakupov appears to be responding too (that assist last night was pure Siberian tiger). If Nelson can find a way for these kids to flourish, while the Nuge and Gordon lines continue rocknrolla and they sign Jeff Petry? Alas, it is too much to hope for I’m afraid.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A fierce (FIERCE) show today, TSN1260 at 10 this morning. Scheduled to appear:
- Jonathan Willis, Oilers Nation and Cult of Hockey. W5 gets to the point on the Oilers, the trade deadline and Todd Nelson’s witchcraft.
- Lyle Richardson, Spector’s Hockey, Bleacher Report, The Hockey News. Trade deadline approaches, we go to a man who knows what’s going on.
- Travis Yost, TSN Analytics. Oilers, Senators, Super Bowl. I PROMISE we will NOT talk about an Oilers—Senators trade. Although…..
- Guy Flaming, Pipeline Show. Draft, Oil Kings, college men, thespians.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide_ on twitter. See you on the radio!