I had never seen an NHL game. Most people who lived in Edmonton in 1979-80 had the same lack of experience, and the difference between the WHA and NHL was massive in my mind (although the upstart league was damned entertaining). They were so fast—faster now—and the passing and creativity was wizardry. We were all spoiled, of course, because those who saw their first NHL hockey at Northlands 1979-90 were seeing the perfect beast, the ultimate, the best of all time. Getting back there keeps us hanging on, year after year.
I have watched the Edmonton Oilers through good times and bad at Northlands/Rexall, and the good lord willing I will be able to find a way to the new arena. The Edmonton Oilers occupy a giant space in this city’s collective consciousness. It has been a very wild ride. I hope for better days, for all of us.
GOLDEN SLUMBERS, 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 in April 2015: 1-3-1
- Oilers in April 2016: 0-1-0
- Oilers after 80 in 2014-15: 24-43-13, 61 points (-80 GD)
- Oilers after 80 in 2015-16: 30-43-7, 67 points (-45 GD)
As we have been discussing all year, the Oilers have shown improvement. With better health, and fewer roster drags? It’s all over now, baby blue. G81 a year ago was a loss (3-1 to McLellan’s Sharks despite Brossoit standing on his head) on a night where Edmonton decided to give a rookie goalie no help at all. Le sigh.
OILERS BLUE, 2015-16
- Brandon Davidson, Oscar Klefbom, Andrej Sekera and Mark Fayne are my keepers for next season. I believe in Corsi and CorsiRel, these men shine—shine—on an addled team. Now, that does not mean they are great defensemen, or even that they are playing in the part of the order that is optimum. It does mean that replacing one—like Fayne—means the Oilers are bringing in three men with possession numbers of better than 50 percent who can move the puck well. I cannot see it happening in one summer.
- Darnell Nurse, Griffin Reinhart, Jordan Oesterle and Adam Clendening should begin the season in Bakersfield (Clendening may not return). If Edmonton is serious about winning hockey games in 2016-17, not one more shift can be devoted to development. These kids will play when injuries strike. Balance is the key watch word this summer.
- I believe the biggest story of this year (defense) is Oscar Klefbom. He emerged and he was terrific—and then he was gone. Brandon Davidson was a similar story. Do we need to see more of them before crowning them legit top 4D options? Sure. However, if they are healthy, then putting Klefbom on one of the top pairings and using Davidson as the strong option on third pairing is an acceptable option for this team.
- Sekera—Fayne is my second pairing next season. If the Oilers trade Fayne plus just to get rid of him, they are missing out and making the defensive rebuild more difficult. I cannot make sense of it, while also acknowledging it may happen just this way.
- Andrew Ference may not be bought out, but could go on LTIR opening week. That may work out best, and the Oilers could send down several players in that paper transaction that allows the contract to remain on the roster until the season begins (and stay under the cap).
- Adam Pardy and Eric Gryba are free agents, and either man could return as 7D. I think David Musil and Jordan Oesterle may also push for that job.
- Klefbom—Jason Demers
- Davidson—David Savard
- All the guys on the left? Keep them.
- All the guys on the right? Thanks for coming. Save Yak but he is screwed and we all know it. How many games did he play on a legit scoring line? The fix for his new coach is going to be pretty damned easy.
- That is simplistic, but in a way it makes sense. Sunil Agnihotri wrote a terrific piece this week and one of his conclusions was this: management should be looking to improve two particular areas that are relied upon to suppress shots in key situations. The first being defence, which badly needs experience, mobility and skill on the right side. And the second being the bottom six forwards, who McLellan relies on heavily to protect leads, but often gets destroyed when it comes to shot-share and goal-share. Source
TEARING DOWN THE BOTTOM SIX F
- I am using scoring chances against per 60 at 5×5, this is one narrow view and we should keep it in mind. That said, it does give us some range on these characters and who we might want to see returning. Is Iiro Pakarinen the Finn you want coming back? I think he is.
- Could you live with Mark Letestu as 4C/4R? Assuming Edmonton adds another guy who is righthanded and can be 3C?
- Is Matt Hendricks close to the finish line? He has a year left, don’t see him leaving over the summer.
- Do the Oilers bring back Zack Kassian? He has been poor for a time.
POSSIBLE FORWARD ROSTER, OPENING NIGHT 2016
- Pouliot—David Backes—Lee Stempniak
This assumes the Oilers trade the first-round pick for immediate defensive help, and flush men like Yakupov and Korpikoski. Miles to go, and of course no guarantee these useful free agents sign.
— OilersNation (@OilersNation) March 31, 2016
We had an interesting chat during last night’s draft thread. One of the conclusions some of us are reaching is this:
- If the Oilers win the draft, take Matthews or trade down to No. 2 for a significant piece.
- If the Oilers draft No. 2 overall, take Patrik Laine.
- No. 3—No. 5? Trade down or out as required.
Most of this probably comes from the fluidity of the draft after No. 3, but there is a reasonable argument to be made that the No. 7 pick might get you the best player on the board after the top two picks. For instance, who is the best defenseman in the draft? I think the 30 teams may split on the answer.
Tonight is the last game at Rexall, #99's statue will follow the Oilers to their new rink. This pic was taken in '89 pic.twitter.com/RxxDhwsOKq
— Gretzky Facts (@GretzkyFacts) April 6, 2016
The Gretzky statue is going to get another tour of the downtown area over the summer, wonder if they add another statue in the years to come. I think we have the subject in our sights, all we have to do is enjoy the ride.
— McReggie (@regwald) April 6, 2016
— NHL (@NHL) April 6, 2016
— Rob Williams (@RobWilliamsCTV) April 6, 2016
SAIL ON, NORTHLANDS
I will tell you the Stanley teams are special memories. Forced to choose, I would offer up the 1984, 1987 and 1990 clubs as my inner circle favorites. Further pushed on the matter, the 1987 team is probably the best one to my mind (Tikkanen was on the team, 99 and Coffey were still there, too). It is a ridiculous argument of course, they were all beautiful.
I loved that 2006 team, and for me, that is the team I will say goodbye to tonight. When the Oilers move over, the statue and the Stanleys and the future go, too. Memories of Stanley Cups live forever, but that 2006 team was the last great moment, the last time chills. In this beautiful game, you rarely get a chance to bond with a team as this city did in 2006, and that memory remains with me today. Thank you Chris, thank you Fernando, thank you Ryan, thank you Dwayne, thank you Jason, thank you Shawn, thank you Ales.
There was a time in this century when giants walked among us. When they turn off the lights tonight, that team may well be forgotten as time passes. Not for me. They shine like a diamond. Always.
— Edm Oilers view (@EdmOilersview) January 24, 2016
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
10 this morning, TSN1260. Memories from Bruce McCurdy, Nathan Dempsey and Steve Lansky, and we will open up the phone lines for your memories, too. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. What an incredible ride.