I tend to have a positive outlook on life, if you have dropped in to this blog over time suspect you know that is true. I was impressed with Kevin Lowe as general manager until the lockout, thought Craig MacTavish had the brain for the GM job and did not give up on Steve Tambellini until after he signed Cam Barker as the defensive solution in 2011.
I am hopeful that Peter Chiarelli has a good summer. Adding more sunshine to the situation, in my opinion this roster has enough ridiculous elements that PC can probably move things forward even with an average summer. Seriously. Address RHD times two, don’t bugger up the forwards too badly, music! Right?
- Darcy Regier: “I once asked Al Arbour what’s the secret to building a team? He said no secret, it’s not complicated. Get good players.” Source
I have been reading comments from observers about adding more grit and size and speed and grimace, but for me that simple little Al Arbour line shines like a diamond. I think a team does need big wingers and smaller skill wingers and slap shots from the points and passers and yes, even defenders who give more than half of their value in their own end. You may not believe in every word on every line, but the idea of gathering useful players and keeping them should be a universal commandment of team building. Fair?
- Darcy Regier: “I think if you miss the playoffs three years in a row, and blow everything up, you’re more likely to miss the playoffs seven years in a row.” Source
The article is from May of 2006. Darcy Regier told us our own future, plain and simple. Regier is hockey royalty—he was drafted by the California Golden Seals—but he learned from Bill Torrey and Al Arbour and the Islanders family. His words, now a decade old, have been bought and paid for by every Oilers fan since 2006.
THE GOOD FACE
Each spring, after the season, Oilers fans like us grind ourselves into a fine white powder arguing over Justin Faulk versus Jason Demers versus Tyson Barrie. We can agree on the slotting of these players, but at some level the idea is to get more of them than the other guy. That’s it. The coach looks a lot smarter in a hurry when the capable veterans increase and flat out rookies decrease—especially on defense.
When observers of the game begin to talk about things like grit, or rugged play, it is important to remember those things get measured, too. I happen to think that Taylor Hall gives great effort, Benoit Pouliot too, and Matt Hendricks as well. You know what? That effort, that hard work, shows up in the numbers.
If we cannot agree on that, we cannot agree on much, and there you are.
A long, long time ago, I wondered about things. One fall day, a man named Jesus Alou wandered to the plate for the Oakland A’s in a WS game. Now, Jesus was the least famous of the Alou brothers (Matty, Felipe) and was the lesser on the field. He was still rather famous (some people, like my Dad, would use him to swear: ‘Geeze Alou’ was used instead of the more inflammatory JC) but did not hold on to a regular job for a long time.
Long before Bill James and Pete Palmer—and certainly before Corsi—we were still blessed with the brain God gave us. Jesus Alou and his baseball card always made me wonder about his place as a regular in the Houston outfield. In 1970, he had almost 500 plate appearances, but very little power and he didn’t walk a lot. He was not a strong fielder and often played LF. He was, and I have no proof beyond my own voice, the least productive regular outfielder in the game and we knew it. He always had a good batting average though, and the announcers would talk about that and those dynamite Alou boys so the world rolled along. It should also be mentioned that Astros team played in the Grand Canyon and home runs were hard to find.
Hockey statistics improve every year, slowly but surely identifying any Jesus Alou playing regular minutes. I would suggest that analytics have lowered the perceived and actual value of:
- Average goaltenders
- Defensive defensemen
I would further suggest analytics has increased the value of:
- Possession players
- Offensive players who score at 5×5 game state
- Effective two-way defensemen
That is my list, you may have a different one. At the end of every season, I look at a few key statistics in order to take all the piss out of my own bias.
CORSI FOR PERCENTAGE 5X5 (REL TEAM)
- Taylor Hall 3.5
- Leon Draisaitl 3.4
- Jordan Eberle 2.9
- Connor McDavid 2.6
- Benoit Pouliot 2.4
- Nail Yakupov 1.0
- Anton Lander -0.7
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins -1.7
I value 5×5 points-per-60 more for forwards, but this metric has real value too. Although we don’t know qual comp and usage completely, we do know that most of these players are the heart of the team and playing tough minutes. What do these numbers tell you?
- Taylor Hall drives the game. He just does.
- Connor McDavid was a ridiculous rookie and will be an even better sophomore.
- Leon Draisaitl was terrific in a complementary role in his first full season.
- Jordan Eberle, one dimension forward, was effective again. Very consistent player.
- Benoit Pouliot remains vastly underrated.
- Nail Yakupov was able to play a complementary role on the McDavid line.
- Anton Lander was solid in possession, or at least good enough to stick around if his bat warranted it.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was not healthy and his number fell from previous level.
- Brandon Davidson 4.1
- Oscar Klefbom 1.9
- Eric Gryba 1.2
- Mark Fayne 0.6
- Andrej Sekera 0.1
- Griffin Reinhart -2.9
- Darnell Nurse -4.8
Information via Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com.
- Brandon Davidson had a brilliant season. People are raving about the Pittsburgh Penguins ability to make quick decisions with the puck in the defensive zone—Davidson did that for Edmonton when he was in the lineup.
- Oscar Klefbom is a true gem. If healthy, and able to play at last year’s levels, he will be a major story for the Oilers and probably emerge as a national star. If only he had a good face.
- Eric Gryba, defensive defenseman, had a reasonable season on the third pairing. I know most of you are not enamored with this player type, but he was effective in that role.
- Mark Fayne also posted a reasonable number, especially considering the opposition he was playing. I remain convinced Peter Chiarelli will be unable to find three better RHD in one summer.
- Andrej Sekera had a strong year when taking into account the uphill battle and some of his partners.
- The kids were not ready, no matter their pedigree.
THE HALL CHATTER
I posted my revised Chiarelli asset list yesterday, shuffling the deck chairs based on latest intel. By far the most reaction came from those upset about Taylor Hall possibly being moved. It is difficult to make sense of a Hall trade, especially if you work through that kind of a transaction historically. I am always reminded of the Gary Carter trade, it basically flattened the Montreal Expos in 1985 and 1986 (they would recover, but not contend consistently for the rest of the decade). This kind of trade is rare because it is so damned dangerous. One thing we can do? Parse reports with fevered forensics:
- Darren Dreger on TSN1260: “And then you have to look at the big names in play here. Edmonton may have a couple. Eberle’s name has been out there forever. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ name has been out there. I’ll tell you what – during the Stanley Cup Final, Taylor Hall’s name became more of a name of interest than the other two, for obvious reasons.” Source
That is not Taylor Hall is being traded, that is Taylor Hall is a player of interest. There is a difference.
- Darren Dreger about Hall back in early April: ‘Look. There’s one untouchable and his name is Connor McDavid. The next on that list is Taylor Hall being close to untouchable.’ Source.
I will tell you that the odds of winning a Taylor Hall trade are not good. The problem for these deals is that they inevitably start with one (lesser) player and is then followed by a bunch of bing cherries and too much icing. It is a poor recipe.
Can PC win a Hall trade? Slight chance. If he could pry Hampus Lindholm and Rikard Rikell out of Anaheim—and sign Milan Lucic—there is a path to victory. I do not think that deal is out there, and would not trade Taylor Hall.