Todd McLellan is approaching his first season behind the Oilers bench with a refreshing urgency. When asked about the roster and getting things rolling, McLellan was blunt and to the point.
- McLellan: “The quicker the better for the coaches and management staff, because it’s relatively new. If we were in Year 4 or 5 and we were comfortable with relationships, we could be around longer.” Source
We don’t know (really) but here’s my guess as to what McLellan will do for opening night (and until PC makes some deals):
- L1: Pouliot—Nuge—Eberle (This combination worked last season)
- L2: Hall—McDavid—Purcell (Veterans with a kid; McLellan does this a lot)
- L3: Korpikoski—Letestu—Yakupov (Veterans with a kid; McLellan does this a lot)
- L4: Hendricks—Lander—Klinkhammer (Lander may win out over Letestu)
- D1: Klefbom—Sekera (McLellan runs a shutdown pairing, this might be it)
- D2: Nikitin—Fayne (Two veterans, coaches love veterans)
- D3: Ference—Schultz (Soft parade and ZS push)
- G1: Cam Talbot (Ben Scrivens)
Concerns? Well, Purcell may not be able to keep up to the bullet train of Hall and McDavid, and Yakupov will die offensively (one suspects) as 3R. Switching those two men is the obvious option and I do hope it happens, but there’s no real two-way (or established veteran with a conscience) guy on a Hall—McDavid—Yakupov line.
Defensively, Klefbom has some NHL experience and McLellan has thrust young blue (albeit exceptional young blue) into the deep end when they had less than 300 games of NHL experience in the past. I know what Peter Chiarelli said but for me Fayne is going to play in the minutes when each game is in doubt and that means top 4D in overall TOI.
Scott Cullen does a great job with projections each season and his Oilers 2015-16 are fun and provocative (my projections in brackets):
- Taylor Hall 70GP, 22-42-64 .914 (1.14)
- Connor McDavid 78GP, 27-43-70 .897 (.886)
- Jordan Eberle 81GP, 26-38-64 .790 (.825)
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 77GP, 19-35-54 .701 (.768)
- Nail Yakupov 75GP, 20-22-42 .560 (.494)
- Benoit Pouliot 67GP, 19-18-37 .552 (.615)
- Teddy Purcell 80GP 12-25-37 .463 (.481)
- Justin Schultz 79GP, 8-24-32 .405 (.473)
- Andrej Sekera 73GP, 5-25-30 .411 (.400)
- Leon Draisaitl 76GP, 10-18-28 .368 (.488)
Cullen’s Top 300 is here, my list is here. Scott will join me today at 11 on the Lowdown to discuss these numbers and his fine look at the Oilers for 2015-16. We agree on most of these projections, I’m out in front with Hall, Nuge, Pouliot, Schultz and Leon, Scott is more bullish on Nail.
They’re going to send down Nurse, I can’t see any way he impresses enough during TC to make the team. Peter Chiarelli’s comments yesterday tell me that the 10 men applying for work (Sekera, Klefbom, Nikitin, Fayne, Schultz, Ference, Gryba, Davidson, Reinhart, Nurse) may in fact be nine.
- Chiarelli: “He’s been a good leader out there, but there’s a lot of nuances to a defensive game that he has to smooth out. The enthusiasm is there and there’s a lot of good parts, but the puck retrievals and when to funnel off passes and such has to get better. It’ll come. He’ll skate into a funnel (of players) a bit, but those things will come from coaching. He’s exuberant and a real coachable kid.” Source
The lack of structure in a tournament like the Young Stars lends itself to risk taking and chaos, but Nurse looked good at main camp a year ago and I suspect he will again this season. However, it’s also true that Peter Chiarelli, a veteran GM, is slow-playing Nurse’s season and there’s a good chance the young defender begins his pro career in Bakersfield. I remain convinced the current defensive depth chart offers little resistance for Nurse and he’s probably already one of the six best defensemen heading to Edmonton. Does that mean he makes it to the Oilers this season? Chiarelli’s words cannot be ignored, there are lessons to be learned. One way to get rid of all this speculation: Trade for a bona fide top 4D to go with Sekera, Klefbom and Fayne.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A fluid show (Bruce, Jon and Scott Burnside will all join me tomorrow in a special tee up for training camp edition) so you can expect Scott Cullen at 11, plenty of football talk and a way you can help kids in Edmonton. TSN 1260, 10 this morning.