Saturday. HNIC. Battle of Alberta. There was a time when you could feel the excitement building early in the day. There was no sports radio then, but the EJ and the Sun would have all the coverage—mostly reminding us of past battles, possibly listing suspensions during the season that came from the Oilers-Flames ongoing war. And it was a war, and that’s for sure.
- Mark Messier, Boxing Day 1984: Suspended 10 games by NHL for cracking Jamie Macoun’s cheekbone in a fight during Edmonton’s Dec. 26, 1984, game at Calgary. Messier was retaliating for having been boarded by Macoun earlier in the game, but the NHL ruled that he had instigated the fight. The suspension was announced on Jan. 14, 1985, and Messier did not return to action until Edmonton’s Feb. 6, 1985, game at Winnipeg. Source
THE WAR IS OVER, YEAR OVER YEAR
- Oilers in October 2014: 4-5-1
- Oilers in October 2015: 4-8-0
- Oilers in November 2014: 2-9-3
- Oilers in November 2015: 4-7-2
- Oilers in December 2014: 2-8-4
- Oilers in December 2015: 7-6-1
- Oilers in January 2015: 5-7-1
- Oilers in January 2016: 4-5-2
- Oilers in February 2015: 5-6-1
- Oilers in February 2016: 4-8-2
- Oilers in March 2015: 5-6-3
- Oilers in March 2016: 7-8-0
- Oilers after 79 in 2014-15: 23-43-13, 59 points (-82 GD)
- Oilers after 79 in 2015-16: 30-42-7, 67 points (-40 GD)
G80 was a 4-2 win for the Oilers over Los Angeles, led by Matt Fraser and Tyler Pitlick offensively. It was a devastating loss for the Kings, and a great night after a massive personal loss for Oilers goalie Richard Bachman. The Oilers may well finish No. 30—they are currently last—but they do have some say in how this ends. The club is rested, possibly getting some help (Friday rumor had Adam Pardy drawing in for Adam Clendening) and it would be nice to carry a good memory from the last Rexall BOA. Hurry sundown.
- Brandon Davidson should be a lock for top 6D in 2016-17, that is a terrific line. If Peter Chiarelli can find four defensemen better than Davidson for opening night, this is a playoff team. (Injuries aside, sprained knee should heel over a summer).
- Oscar Klefbom is apparently skating again, I am uncertain we can talk about him as a realistic option in the fall. Matty reports snake-bite, but I think it more likely an angry God.
- Andrej Sekera is getting that Corsi number edging toward 50 percent, I have enjoyed his season and hope for several more—and those in more competitive circumstances.
- Mark Fayne is all leather and no bat, but I remain convinced Peter Chiarelli will not find three better righties over one summer. It should be an interesting watch.
- Darnell Nurse will enter summer with more questions than answers. He has played well with some partners, including Brandon Davidson and Eric Gryba—wonder if they end up with him for 2016-17.
- Jordan Oesterle and Griffin Reinhart probably start next season in Bakersfield, but have had some good games down the stretch.
Connor McDavid has been named Rookie of the Month for a 3rd time in 2015-16- has won any month he's had over 1 GP in pic.twitter.com/lEChHmm1wr
— StatsCentre (@StatsCentre) April 1, 2016
- Connor McDavid should win the Calder Trophy on merit. That said, even if he doesn’t win the fact remains the young man is incredible. Oilers fans are rightly over the moon about 97. He is 2-9-11 in the last 10 games.
- Leon Draisaitl is finishing up poorly (1-3-4 in his last 10) but this season has been a revelation. I am still unsure about what position he will play next year (FO percentage is 41), but this is an extremely valuable piece of the future.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (6, 3-0-3 in the last 10 Oilers games) did not have a great season and will need to be much better next season (should he be back). Nuge has a career FO percentage of 43.6, I thought he was heading in a good direction (up to 46 percent a year ago) but has regressed to 44.6 percent this year. I think he is going to have a brilliant career as a center, but that needs to improve.
- Mark Letestu has spiked in the last 10 games (3-4-7) and his numbers over the season have now reached what he would consider acceptable. The problem is so little of his offense came at 5×5, effectively turning the 3line into another 4line. He will need to be 4C next season.
OILERS LEFT WINGERS
- Patrick Maroon has been terrific in the last 10 games (9, 3-4-7) and the issue becomes what can we expect over 82games. I would refer you to Maroon’s production per 82 games during his career (12-22-34) and that (for me) is well worth the money. Maroon does appear to have chem with pretty much every center on the roster.
- Taylor Hall (3-1-4 in the last 10) has faded during this year but the overall numbers at 5×5 remain terrific. He remains one of the top 10 players at 5×5 and is now in the prime of his career. Can he hit 80 points next season? One great thing about 2016-17: He has played in every game.
- Benoit Pouliot is injured but still had an interesting week. Jason Gregor mentioned a rumor he heard about Pouliot (and Yak) heading to the Anaheim Ducks at the deadline. I know there are many who are not enamored of the big man, for me he is a value contract and absolutely a keeper.
- Lauri Korpikoski is 2-2-4 in the last 10 games, I think that is a reasonable expectation of his offense. The issue really is his inability to help possession, and his Corsi 5×5 for percentage ranks him No. 358 out of 371 forwards. I sincerely believe the Oilers will improve if they replace him.
- Matt Hendricks (9, 2-1-3 in Oilers last 10) remains a valuable player among the bottom 6F. When he loses another step he won’t get to plays, but he is a terrific warrior.
OILERS RIGHT WINGERS
- Jordan Eberle (10, 5-0-5) had some injury issues early in the year but recovered in time to post a 25-goal season. I stopped talking about trading Eberle around the time it became obvious there was chem with McDavid. Eberle is an effective winger when the Nuge is his center (2.24 5×5 60 this season), but reaches impact levels with 97 (2.75 5×5 60 this season). I think he might score 40 with McDavid next year.
- Nail Yakupov (10, 1-3-4) was the subject of more attention this week and in a way I think that might help him. If nothing else, we can clearly see the Oilers organization was a mess on his draft day, and that cannot be blamed on the Russian teenager. His possession numbers have improved this season, and his even-strength scoring chances are good. The 5×5 60 is not good at all, but when with McDavid he is 2.64 60. Trading him is of course an option, but the gap between Eberle and Yakupov with 97 is not a grand canyon. I am pleased Chiarelli didn’t make a deal at the deadline, and if the value isn’t there this summer then he should once again keep his powder dry. Fact is, Yakupov could post impressive numbers over an 82-game season with McDavid. If you are going to trade him, maybe do it after 82 games in a feature role.
- Zack Kassian (10, 0-2-2 with 40 pims!) has faded so badly I am not certain he will earn a contract this summer. Edmonton needs an effective Kassian, and if this is his effort level than they are better off passing on him. I do wonder if the weird season has left him a exhausted, but have no proof either way.
- Iiro Pakarinen (9, 1-2-3) is a fun player but there isn’t a lot of offense while he is on the ice. I think he probably returns next season, but it is likely to be in a bottom 6F role. One of the real issues I have with playing a Pakarinen (or a Pitlick) with a Taylor Hall is that you are hurting your star players in the name of spreading out the offense. Pakarinen doesn’t help Hall (1.37 5×5 60) offensively, but when playing with Hall the Finn sports a 2.74 5×5 60 number. I think he gets 500 at-bats again next season. As with all things, sample size alert on the Pakarinen-Hall pairing. It just reminds me so much of the Pitlick minutes last year.
— Ryan Batty (@ryan_batty) April 2, 2016
I am sure Batty will take his share of lumps, but for me that is the exact equation. Good lord people, what are Oilers fans supposed to do? If you are an invested Oilers fan, the playoffs would be manna from heaven. They are not available to you. The next major event on the fan calendar is the lottery, and if you’re going then good grief you might as well win. I don’t understand the group of people who see it differently.
- Bruce Garrioch: The Oilers will try to deal winger Nail Yakupov in the off-season and the Senators showed mild interest in him at the deadline. Source
I am very interested in seeing how the Mike Hoffman fiasco works out this summer (the Senators have hammered the young man every step of the negotiation way, even to the point of winning a punishing arbitration last offseason) and he may be dealt by the team. Oilers would be wise to get in on that, and any number of young Senators that an addled and disgruntled management group may choose to flush. Are they crazy enough to trade a big piece?
Larionov says he has "a lot of respect" for Peter Chiarelli, who "kept everything professional and quiet" concerning Yakupov. #Oilers
— Chris Nichols (@NicholsOnHockey) March 28, 2016
I think having a veteran GM in place this summer should give Oilers fans some confidence for the future. Comes the reply ‘Griffin Reinhart trade and Lauri Korpikoski’ and I hear you. That said, the goaltending got some help last summer, and the Sekera signing has been viewed as a positive in most precincts. If Chiarelli can add Travis Hamonic, a power-play QB who can play third pairing, a Lee Stempniak and a new Pisani (along with a backup goalie) things should look better in the fall. I don’t think Yakupov will be here in the fall, and wonder how many of MacT’s Russians continue with the organization on any level. It has been a weird and bumpy sojourn into Russia since 2012.
Not wanting to trade Taylor Hall and wanting the Oilers defense to get better are not mutually exclusive things
— Jeanshorts (@JSBMjeanshorts) March 29, 2016
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah. Amen.