AUGUST AND EVERYTHING AFTER

If I use the big part of my brain—the area devoted to Bobby Orr’s goals, Natalie Wood in Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, the Allmans, and demon liquor—it shouldn’t be too hard to guess most of the Oilers opening night roster. Folly would be also guessing the Bakersfield 23 and the Wichita Extra Guys.

PROJECTED OPENING NIGHT ROSTER 2017-18

  • Todd McLellan may decide to keep eight defensemen for the first while, hoping to figure out his pairings. Auvitu should get the push but Stanton has a chance.
  • Placed the lines with Nuge getting the RW push and Leon centering his playoff line. The soft parade gets Strome.
  • I would like to remind you that my lines are not meant to offend you in any way, that I’m not ‘working through some personal things’ and am not “finally coming around to your way of thinking” on these matters. If I didn’t piss you off with these lines, will do better next time.
  • Would prefer Russell-Benning and Nurse-Gryba but I’m not sure we’ll see it.
  • Andrej Sekera is not listed and that’s a damned shame.

BAKERSFIELD CONDORS 2017-18

  • I look at AHL rosters strictly as development teams, so the prospects of note (mostly blue) are the important men.
  • There are two tiers of prospects in Bakersfield this season.
  • The first tier are veteran prospects (Rattie, Callahan, Lowe) and have a better chance of playing with the Oilers this coming season.
  • The second tier are the prospects who are going to spend some of their entry-level deals in Bakersfield. I’ll include Jones, Bear, Paigin in that group.

WICHITA THUNDER 2017-18

  • Starrett probably plays in both Wichita and Bakersfield so I put him in both spots.
  • Based on what we’re seeing here, I think defensemen will be signed to increase depth for the minor league season.
  • Brian Ferlin is listed here because it’s not certain how ready he’ll be this fall. Certainly has enough talent to win an AHL job if he is completely healthy.

Photo by Mark Williams 

YOU GOT THE SILVER

There are seven men on the current 50-man roster—that is 14 percent, for the math challenged—who (in my estimation) have no chance of playing in an NHL game this coming season. That is no big deal—unless this is your third year of pro hockey and final one on an entry-level deal. If that is the case, then the chances of getting another deal at the end of the entry deal could be in doubt. Here is the list of players for whom I cannot see a pathway to the majors this winter.

ENTERING FIRST YEAR PRO

  • G Shane Starrett. A promising college career got him an NHL contract and his resume looks good from here. A full season in the minors is straight ahead.
  • RD Ryan Mantha. I don’t think any of the rookie blue (Jones, Bear, Paigin, Mantha) will play in the NHL this coming season, but Mantha is the surest bet to remain in the minors all year. No worries, the play here is getting pro experience, hopefully a bunch of it in the AHL.

ENTERING SECOND YEAR PRO

  • R Patrick Russell. He had some interesting things last year (lots of shots) but needs to hit the score sheet way more often in the coming year.

ENTERING THIRD YEAR PRO

  • RC Kyle Platzer. He was a third-round pick but hasn’t moved the needle much through two pro seasons. You’d like to see a major spike but the competition is heavy.
  • R Greg Chase. The first year in pro saw some good ECHL numbers but Chase didn’t get into the lineup much in his second year. I hope he gets something resembling 68 games just to see what’s there.
  • LD Ben Betker. He is the one player entering year three who I think the organization likes enough to keep around. PC is a fan of giants and Betker moves pretty well for a big blue. Don’t believe he plays in the NHL this season but a contract in the spring is very possible.
  • L Braden Christoffer. He has the agitating style that lines up with a Chiarelli team, but the offense hasn’t been there in pro.

WHAT WILL AUGUST BRING?

We’re most of the way through the story of summer, with the big additions being Ryan Strome, Jussi Jokinen and Kailer Yamamoto. It feels like there are more things to come, and Leon Draisaitl’s signing (eventually) may in fact ignite a free-agent signing or (more likely) a trade.

There are things we don’t know (Sekera’s ETA) and things we do (Oilers are committed to kids on RW) and question marks along with astute additions. I keep wanting Peter Chiarelli to be aggressive in finding things (like his Torey Krug or his Nathan Horton) but he appears to be looking for internal solutions all down the line.

Can the Edmonton Oilers win the Stanley Cup with this team? My answer is there are too many question marks, too many unproven youngsters in major roles, to consider this team a strong SC contender.

I think Peter Chiarelli wasn’t ready for his team to be ready this past spring, and his solution seems to be preparedness for a stronger trade deadline. It’s a strange plan of attack but perhaps there is a trade target who will only come available after another failed season. We wait.

LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE

A fun show this morning as we dig into all manner of stories with an accomplished group of guests. 10 this morning, TSN1260, scheduled to appear:

  • Jonathan Willis, Oilers Nation. We’ll chat about right wing, defensive pairings and Jesse Puljujarvi.
  • Scott Mitchell, TSN. The Jays made some moves, blew a massive lead.
  • Scott Cullen, TSN. Leon’s deal, CFL weekend, Jays.

10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!

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74 Responses to "AUGUST AND EVERYTHING AFTER"

  1. Kinger_Oil.redux says:

    – Great post LT! Picking up on last thread: It’s quite possible Pool will get the Drai treatment this year. What I mean is he could spend a lot of time on that line

    – Then you have all of RNH, Strome and Drai rotating for 2C, It’s going to be a challenging coaching situation next year for sure: but in a good way, as they explore what the team looks like

    – Total aside: there was a trivia question on the radio this morning: “Which Pittsburgh Pirate who also played for the jays has the most hits?”

    – Answer: Dave Parker. The funny anecdote the host told was that Parker wore the Star of David around his neck, it was his “trademark”. He had no clue it was a Jewish symbol.

    – When asked way back in the 70’s: “Why do you wear the Star of David?” Parker replied: “My name is David, and I am a star”

  2. season not played says:

    I believe this team, as currently constructed, has as good a chance as any other team, including Pittsburgh, of winning the cup this year.

  3. McNuge93 says:

    ‘Can the Edmonton Oilers win the Stanley Cup with this team? My answer is there are too many question marks, too many unproven youngsters in major roles, to consider this team a strong SC contender.’

    My view is there is one favorite to win the cup – Penguins. After that it is wide open. So if all the tumblers click into place the Oilers could. Not saying by any means they’re a favorite but there just aren’t as many scary teams out there to beat.

  4. Ford Prefect says:

    I think this is the first time you referenced Natalie Wood and did not include a picture. It’s a damn shame.

  5. chrisco stu says:

    Doughty? It’s doughty. You’re talking about doughty right?

  6. jtblack says:

    “Can the Edmonton Oilers win the Stanley Cup with this team?” – Sure they can.

    First step is getting in to the playoffs. There are 11 teams going for 8 spots in the West (AZ, VAN, COL – no chance) …. Who is better than the Oilers? Anaheim gets my vote. All the other teams have young players and question mark thru their lineups ….

    Add the fact we get Sekera back, our D core will be deep and able to sustain injuries in the playoffs. We have the best player in the League. PC has kept his powder dry to add at the deadline, once he knows what he needs.

    So you’re telling me there’s a chance! – You bet there is

  7. TO10801 says:

    The way I see things is that you can trade for say Neal now and do very little at the deadline (and also probably pay more in terms of assets for a full season) or you could add Neal and say Mike Green at the deadline. So while we may not be a SC contender now, would we be if we ran lines like this in March?

    Maroon-McDavid-Neal
    Lucic-Drai-Strome
    Jokinen-Nuge-JP
    Caggiula-Letestu-Kassian
    Sleppy-Khaira

    Klefbom-Larsson
    Sekera – Russell
    Nurse- Green
    Benning

    No doubt there will be injuries but I think that lineup is better. Not to mention there is the possibility you could add the sedins with the amount of cap space we would have at the deadline.

  8. JJS says:

    I don’t get the impression Chia is slow playing his hand.

    He may be a bit surprised by how much progress the team made last year but he has made massive changes since the Golden Card right through the organization (granted, not deep enough for some).

    My impression is he has a few key player-types he would like to acquire/groom over the next 2 seasons and is willing to be moderately patient to ensure balance going forward.

    As long as the team continues to mature and play at least two rounds per playoffs, this is a solid strategy.

    Once we find the pieces, there will be a cluster of 2-3 Stanley’s (and other close calls) much like the Hawks, Kings and Pens.

    I can live with that.

  9. Woodguy v2.0 says:

    LT,

    I’m glad you’ve worked through your personal things and have come around to my way of thinking.

  10. dustrock says:

    I think T-Mac saw the value in moving Draisaitl off of McDavid’s wing against the Sharks and especially the Ducks.

    I’m agreeing with you that he’ll probably center the 2nd line.

    Will he move up to play with McDavid if the Oilers are down in the 3rd? Yes, that will happen.

  11. GMB3 says:

    Maybe JP and Benning are Chiarelli’s Horton and Krug

    Also to keep this train of positive thought going… Ryan Martha is our Colton Parayko. Book it (cross your fingers and hope). Another late blooming giant RHD

  12. Lowetide says:

    Woodguy v2.0:
    LT,

    I’m glad you’ve worked through your personal things and have come around to my way of thinking.

    (Breaks phone chops down tree).

  13. russ99 says:

    My expectations for the next few years is gradual improvement, the big jump of last season isn’t realistically possible again this year.

    So 2017-18 anything less than one playoff series win would be a step back, but we do need to evaluate the young RFAs.

    2018-19: dump Nuge and sort out the RFA kids with low-cost veterans and kid replacements getting us closer to the balance picture, McDavid core one year older and closer to career apex: Conference finals or bust.

    2019-20: Top Cup contenders or front office/coaching changes.

  14. leadfarmer says:

    jtblack:
    “Can the Edmonton Oilers win the Stanley Cup with this team?”– Sure they can.

    First step is getting in to the playoffs.There are 11 teams going for 8 spots in the West (AZ, VAN, COL – no chance) …. Who is better than the Oilers?Anaheim gets my vote. All the other teams have young players and question mark thru their lineups ….

    Add the fact we get Sekera back, our D core will be deep and able to sustain injuries in the playoffs. We have the best player in the League.PC has kept his powder dry to add at the deadline, once he knows what he needs.

    So you’re telling me there’s a chance! – You bet there is

    AZ is no longer in the no chance category with the addition of Stepan and Hjalmarsson.

  15. Scungilli Slushy says:

    The only way Auvitu is on the NHL team is that Stanton is worse than Gryba skating and with the puck and the sad fact that Russell has only been close to a full season only twice ever – 73 GM 2010/2011 and 79 GM 2014/2015.

    It should be expected he’ll miss 20. If that happens before Sekera is back I expect assuming no one else is hurt

    Klef Larsson
    Nurse Benning
    Stanton/Auvitu Gryba

  16. GMB3 says:

    Kinger_Oil.redux,

    That is truly hilarious

  17. leadfarmer says:

    chrisco stu:
    Doughty? It’s doughty. You’re talking about doughty right?

    We prayed for Doughty. Instead we got Daughtry.

  18. GMB3 says:

    russ99:
    My expectations for the next few years is gradual improvement, the big jump of last season isn’t realistically possible again this year.

    So 2017-18 anything less than one playoff series win would be a step back, but we do need to evaluate the young RFAs.

    2018-19: dump Nuge and sort out the RFA kids with low-cost veterans and kid replacements getting us closer to the balance picture, McDavid core one year older and closer to career apex: Conference finals or bust.

    2019-20: Top Cup contenders or front office/coaching changes.

    *Dumps third best forward, become top cup contender*. That’s interesting

  19. Bag of Pucks says:

    Even during the dynasty years when the team was stacked, Sather’s philosophy was that he always wanted 2 or 3 new players breaking in with the club, as that youthful enthusiasm is a good counterbalance against any potential complacency.

    Actually love the fact that our RW depth chart is a vet coming off a breakout season (Kassian), two young pros on the cusp (Caggiula, Shlep), a young pro with talent and something to prove (Strome), and a young phenom with the largest upside of them all (JP). Let the battle commence in training camp and the competition for icetime continue throughout the season.

    There’s enough vets and experience elsewhere in the lineup to carry them through, and come trade deadline you’ll have a far better sense of the contenders and pretenders and can deal accordingly.

    Whilst a roster stocked with proven vets is likely best for comfort and the infamous balance photo, I don’t know that day ever arrives in the salary cap era. Because of the need for some small contracts, you’ll like always have some peach fuzz in the lineup. Nature of the beast.

  20. Radman says:

    My guess would be that within one week, at the end of August we see:

    1) Leon sign a long term deal ( 8M x 8 years)
    2) RNH for Gallagher and a pick. Bergevin has cash in his pocket and his designer shirt collar tightening to find a top 6 C. The Oil avoid making Nuge a square peg in a round hole by trying to convert him to a winger. Instead the team gets a top 6 RW, 2.25M cap saving, and a 25 year old Chiarelli style player locked up for 4 years. Another sad day for the fan base. Cap saving banked for FA signings next summer.
    3) Veteran RW signed for 1 year. My guess is Iginla. RW insurance and a R shot for the PP. Still room to add at the deadline.

    My three pesos anyway.

  21. jtblack says:

    leadfarmer,

    “AZ is no longer in the no chance category with the addition of Stepan and Hjalmarsson.” – They will be better but I still think their lineup is not good enough to make playoffs .. Guess we will see!

  22. Chachi says:

    leadfarmer: AZ is no longer in the no chance category with the addition of Stepan and Hjalmarsson.

    They also no longer employ the architect of this masterpiece:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdUcm1cBMcE

  23. jtblack says:

    Woodguy v2.0,

    Well said! +1

  24. treevojo says:

    Am I the only one that thinks Nuge is going to hit it out of the park this year and force himself on next years lineup at the expense of ufa wingers?

  25. YELAK says:

    I think the obvious thing is waiting to get Draisaitl signed before making any other moves. After that is done and Chia knows exactly where he is sitting I would actually like the idea of going ahead with who we have. Give the kids and everyone opportunities to play up in the lineup/ just get playing time and learn/develop. Once we see how that goes and we get closer to the trade deadline we will have lots of cap space to cover off the bonus’s (plus have a better idea of how much bonus money may be paid out) and pick up a couple larger contracts for rentals. That way we install experience and leadership into the end of season and playoff push while still preparing our younger players and helping them develop incase of an injury or for next year. James Neal jumps out as a potential target, probably a PP dman as well or a faceoff specialist.

  26. russ99 says:

    GMB3:

    Please. Third best forward on paper only.

    What part of not working in the system, lack of getting to tough areas, not being physical even though he’s 6’2″ 195 and declining shooting percentage are you not getting?

  27. 106 and 106 says:

    #Oilers goalie prospects Dylan Wells & Stuart Skinner on @HockeyCanada’s summer camp roster. Tyler Benson invited but unable to attend. -Oilers Twitter

    Is that dude hurt again? Or still?

  28. Scungilli Slushy says:

    treevojo:
    Am I the only one that thinks Nuge is going to hit it out of the park this year and force himself on next years lineup at the expense of ufa wingers?

    We hope. I would like to see Strome become competent and have 4 skilled centres, 3 rotating around as needed, as a hedge against injuries derailing playoff runs. Ideally you have a good backup goaler and very capable young D on third pairing and roll with whatever happens Eskimo style.

  29. flyfish1168 says:

    I can’t help but think about next summer and how trying to sign all of Maroon, Nurse, Benning, Slepyshev, Caggiula and Letestu to contracts for 2018/19. Because of this I can see Puljujarvi being sent to the AHL to start the season due to bonuses. I think Slepyshev will get a push and if he performs well he may replace Maroon at the trade deadline since Maroon will cost us big next summer. This way we will not lose Maroon for nothing next summer. JMHO

  30. Bag of Pucks says:

    As much as I like the player, I don’t know this is the time to be buying on Brendan Gallagher. Quite an injury plagued season last year and you could see that becoming a pattern. Love the way the little man plays, going to the hard areas without fear. But it’s quite possible that his small frame starts to pay the price for that with more time out of the lineup with nagging injuries.

  31. Bag of Pucks says:

    treevojo:
    Am I the only one that thinks Nuge is going to hit it out of the park this year and force himself on next years lineup at the expense of ufa wingers?

    You’re probably not the only one, but after back to back disappointing seasons, I would imagine the predictions calling for another breakout season for Nuge – particularly if he stays at C – will be less this year.

  32. stush18 says:

    Bag of Pucks:
    Even during the dynasty years when the team was stacked, Sather’s philosophy was that he always wanted 2 or 3 new players breaking in with the club, as that youthful enthusiasm is a good counterbalance against any potential complacency.

    Actually love the fact that our RW depth chart is a vet coming off a breakout season (Kassian), two young pros on the cusp (Caggiula, Shlep), a young pro with talent and something to prove (Strome), and a young phenom with the largest upside of them all (JP). Let the battle commence in training camp and the competition for icetime continue throughout the season.

    There’s enough vets and experience elsewhere in the lineup to carry them through, and come trade deadline you’ll have a far better sense of the contenders and pretenders and can deal accordingly.

    Whilst a roster stocked with proven vets is likely best for comfort and the infamous balance photo, I don’t know that day ever arrives in the salary cap era. Because of the need for some small contracts, you’ll like always have some peach fuzz in the lineup. Nature of the beast.

    This is something that needs to be considered when talking about LT’a infamous balance photo.

    Having a team only full of vets isn’t always the solution. As you said, having a couple younger players breaking into the team every year helps keep the game fun.

    The issue is most of edmontons drivers are young already.

  33. John Chambers says:

    russ99: Please. Third best forward on paper only.

    What part of not working in the system, lack of getting to tough areas, not being physical even though he’s 6’2″ 195 and declining shooting percentage are you not getting?

    Played the 3rd most minutes of any forward last year, was trusted in all situations and faced the team’s toughest matchups. Yep, I don’t see how anyone but Nuge could be said to be the team’s 3rd best forward.

    Hypothetically, McDavid and Draisaitl have just finished a long shift against the other team’s 2nd or 3rd line, and both teams change on the fly with the opposing coach throwing out their top unit (Getzlaf n Rackell, or Monahan Gaudreau), and you’re TMac who do you send out? Ryan Strome? Mark Letestu? No – Nuge!

    It’s Nuge who enables McDavid and Drai to go for broke while 93 handles the counter-attack.

    That’s McLellan’s strategy with RNH. Nuge wants to win and has accepted a defensive role that is mightily under appreciated by fans.

  34. leadfarmer says:

    jtblack:
    leadfarmer,

    “AZ is no longer in the no chance category with the addition of Stepan and Hjalmarsson.”– They will be better but I still think their lineup is not good enough to make playoffs .. Guess we will see!

    Well in that case I agree. Outside chance but no longer the no chance that I give Vancouver and Colorado. Growth year some call it.

  35. treevojo says:

    Bag of Pucks: You’re probably not the only one, but after back to back disappointing seasons, I would imagine the predictions calling for another breakout season for Nuge – particularly if he stays at C – will be less this year.

    Well I also thought Eberle after getting somewhat hot at the end of the season was going to rip it up in the playoffs so there is that.

    But I will double down with Nuge and Nurse having breakout seasons this year.

    Let me be right.

  36. doritogrande says:

    First step is getting in to the playoffs. There are 11 teams going for 8 spots in the West (AZ, VAN, COL – no chance) …. Who is better than the Oilers? Anaheim gets my vote. All the other teams have young players and question mark thru their lineups ….

    Not to be a know-it-all stir-the-pot kind of person, but a lot of you have seemingly forgotten that Vegas is a team in the Western Conference this year. We know where they’re going to be in said Conference but solely for a numbers perspective, they should be in this conversation with Van, Col and arguably Ari.

  37. Side says:

    russ99: Please. Third best forward on paper only.

    What part of not working in the system, lack of getting to tough areas, not being physical even though he’s 6’2″ 195 and declining shooting percentage are you not getting?

    Out of 4 things you mentioned, only 1 is measured. I’m willing to bet the other 3 points is good ol’ confirmation bias. If you’re going to knock Nuge for his performance, at least base it on something that’s not based on your eye test or can’t be contradicted by reality. If Nuge was not “working in the system”, I very much doubt he would be trusted as much by Todd as he is.

  38. Nuclear leak says:

    Nuge is the 3rd best forward

  39. Bruce McCurdy says:

    GMB3: *Dumps third best forward, become top cup contender*. That’s interesting

    Worked last year. Just saying. (Also ducking & running).

    Calm down Woodguy, it was a joke.

  40. Bruce McCurdy says:

    russ99: Please. Third best forward on paper only.

    What part of not working in the system, lack of getting to tough areas, not being physical even though he’s 6’2″ 195 and declining shooting percentage are you not getting?

    Trying to figure out who you are describing here. Benoit Pouliot?

  41. GMB3 says:

    russ99: Please. Third best forward on paper only.

    What part of not working in the system, lack of getting to tough areas, not being physical even though he’s 6’2″ 195 and declining shooting percentage are you not getting?

    Not working in the system yet clearly Todd disagrees with all the things he has said about him… I forgot you were an elite coach.. maybe he should change his stick flex. If he runs a PDO heater like Russell you’ll be on his nuts. Also never seen him listed as 6’2″ anywhere, ever

  42. LadiesloveSmid says:

    Cap and D flexibility just so shot for the next 4 years with the Russell contract. Still can’t believe that is real. Add a 2RD and Jagr and those asinine Vegas odds will be a little closer. Hard to believe they couldn’t turn Eberle into a 2RD. Ok, disappointed rant of the day out of the way.

  43. Ryan says:

    Bruce McCurdy: Trying to figure out who you are describing here.Benoit Pouliot?

    I think he meant Nuge though he’s not 6’2″.

  44. Georges says:

    I’ve been meaning to comment on the the PuckIQ numbers. The Nuge discussion is a good lead in.

    Here are Nuge’s 5v5 results:

    Comp, % TOI, G +/-

    Elite, 42, -2
    Middle, 36, -3
    Gritensity, 23, -2

    So Nuge had practically the same results, as measured by G +/-, for all categories of competition he faced. He played tough minutes and slightly lost the goal battle, but when the minutes became easier, he didn’t do any better.

    Intuitively, you would expect that on-ice results should improve as competition weakens. Any one player may have unusual results, but in the aggregate, you should see a pattern where Elites are toughest to play against and Gritensity are the easiest to play against. If we don’t see this pattern, then we would wonder what we mean by Elite and Gritensity, no?

    Here are the total results for all centres off of PuckIQ. Obviously, there will be some double counting of goals here because centre TOI isn’t mutually exclusive (e.g., CMD and Drai played together; CMD and Letestu played together, etc.). So the totals won’t be accurate but if the competition categories are reasonable and we’re dealing with enough players, then hopefully we get something like the pattern we expect.

    Comp, G +/-

    Elite, 30
    Middle, -146
    Gritensity, -60

    OK, not what we expect. Overall, centres outscored players in the Elite category and were outscored by players in the other two categories.

    One explanation is that G and WG decided the categories for the players before the season began. Which means they were engaging in a bit of forecasting. If these are the results, then you can see what a tricky job it is to forecast player performance over an entire season. Players who you thought were good (based on their historical performance) don’t have good seasons; players you forecast as plugs have great seasons.

    Another explanation is I’m getting the numbers wrong or misinterpreting their meaning, i.e., I’m out to lunch. Which is where I’m headed actually. Talk to y’all later.

  45. Bruce McCurdy says:

    Ryan: I think he meant Nuge though he’s not 6’2″.

    In that case he lost me at “not working in the system”. Once we got to “6’2, 195” I was going “who TF is this, anyways?”

  46. Side says:

    Nuge is 8’13” and 350 and plays as hard as a wet paper bag. At least wind blows paper bags into a corner every now and then. His shooting % is also 0 and his coach doesn’t trust how Ryan Nugent Huge plays his system, which is why he uses him as a #2 centre and puts him up against other teams #1 lines.

    What are you all not getting about this?

  47. stush18 says:

    Side:
    Nuge is 8’13” and 350 and plays as hard as a wet paper bag. At least wind blows paper bags into a corner every now and then. His shooting % is also 0 and his coach doesn’t trust how Ryan Nugent Huge plays his system, which is why he uses him as a #2 centre and puts him up against other teams #1 lines.

    What are you all not getting about this?

    Does anyone else struggle to read 8’13”?

    Like my brain shut off for a minute. It’s half past quarter to three.

  48. stush18 says:

    Georges,

    Looking at goals with the crossover might just contain too much variable?

  49. Bag of Pucks says:

    But isn’t the issue with RNH that he plays the tough comps but he doesn’t win or saw off that matchup? By Corsi, GD and +/- last season, I thought he gave up more than he gets?

    Great that he’s willing to do that thankless job and take it on the chin to free up a better matchup for Connor and possibly Leon, but I would suggest that if you want to be a true Cup contender, Nuge can’t be Dave Keon lite, he actually has to be Dave Keon and consistently saw off those matchups at the very least.

    Guy Carbonneau, John Madden, Jonathan Toews. You can’t just play the toughs, you have to win them. That is what separates the Champs from the also rans.

    As it stands now, the opposition will hard match against Connor when they have last change in their barns and RNH does very little to outscore the lesser matchup as evidenced by his boxcars. Then when TMac has the change at home, he’ll feed RNH to the wolves and trust that, even if RNH gives up a small margin in possession against the elites, Connor will outscore the lesser opps. The latter strategy does work but imho, makes you a contender, not a championship calibre team.

    For me, this is ultimately why Leon is going to be elevated sooner rather than later. You need a C that will feast on that secondary matchup on the road and consistently saw off the toughest matchups at home. Granted, Leon hasn’t done it yet, but he’s definitely shown a greater ability than RNH to produce points and I believe TMac will move heaven and earth this season to graduate this club beyond being a one line hockey club.

  50. Jaxon says:

    I am SO OFFENDED by your lines. Is everything okay?

    Haha, truth be told, I almost always agree with you. I too, always wanted Pouliot to get a better shot at it. Anyhow, small difference in what I think might happen is Strome as 1RW and Nuge as 3C. I’d also give Malone the advantage over Khaira at least to start. He’s got more experience and more faceoff success. He also hits a lot, fights some, and shoots a lot. And, he can more easily go back and forth between AHL and NHL without getting claimed as his ceiling isn’t as high.

    I think we’ll see your preference with Gryba making the opening lineup. Klefbom-Larsson, Russell-Benning, Nurse-Gryba. I don’t see the evidence of Auvitu having any puck moving ability besides some verbal (he has never scored at a great rate, even in lower tiers).

    I think Paigin could be the one who makes the team first out of all the others. Lots of qualifiers (PP time) and more recent history (usage aside) that somewhat disputes Paigin’s numbers from his time in Sochi, but we shouldn’t forget that he achieved an NHLe of 15 goals and 30 assists (45 pts!) in the 2nd hardest league in the world as a 20 year old, 6’6″ D. Bear just turned 20. That’s really something for a player who was drafted for his defensive ability. He checks off some boxes (size, aggression, hard slap shot, PP). I’d be surprised if he made the club opening night, but he may be an injury call up that sticks. Or, if they put Russell on the right side again to make room.

    Unless there is an injury on the right side. Then, we might see Bear given a shot. Mantha may surprise and surpass Bear, but I doubt it.

    I also believe Betker will get the extra chance with another contract when his is up. That guy shows so well every camp, that he must leave a pretty good impression. He might be the classic big-Ds-take-longer prospect and he seems to be making steady progress every year. The man knows how to camp.

    The other wildcard this fall may be LaLeggia. His NHLe since moving to LW was impressive. But his goals NHLe was even moreso. Small sample size and all, Laleggia had a goal NHLe of 20 goals to end the season. If he can bring 20 goals to the NHL, there’ll be a place for him.

    I hope Benson gets a taste of regular season action before being sent back to the WHL, and I hope he has a chance to be dominant at the World Juniors this year. I think that experience would be very valuable to show him what he has to work on and give him some encouragement. They may need him to step up as early as next year if Maroon and Nuge are both gone.

  51. John Chambers says:

    Bag of Pucks,

    So here’s the dilemma the club is in:
    – try to free up 97 (perhaps with Leon) at home means hard-matching someone against Getzlaf or Thornton, or Kopitar.
    – who are you going to use? Letestu may win more faceoffs, but after that he’ll get torched. Ditto Strome. Or Jokinen, or Horcoff, or Lander, etc etc
    – Nuge may not “win” those matchups, but the objective is more not to lose. His role is to endure the opposing team’s best attackers.
    – Sure you could jettison Nuge and run Draisaitl at 2C, but my guess is that he’ll equally lose the matchup and you’ve just lost your best scoring threat starboard McDavid

    RNH is a great skater and passer. The coach derives a lot of utility from 93’s versatile toolset. I can only imagine the challenges the Oilers would face absent what RNH brings.

  52. Bag of Pucks says:

    Btw, one of the reasons I think RNH is dreadfully miscast as this team’s tough mins C in perpetuity is his FO%. Historically, the best two way Cs have always been strong on the dot as otherwise you’re chasing the game.

    One of the reasons I think Nuge is so respected is because he’s so dogged in puck pursuit and on the backcheck. But let’s be real, one of the reasons he has to play that way is because he’s so often chasing the play rather than driving it. And he’s smart enough to know that he has to win battles in the neutral zone because if the opposition wins the race to the boards or slot, he’ll lose the physical match-up there.

    RNH reminds me of a great cover corner that blankets the opposition but is not that super aggressive corner like a Revis or Sherman that absolutely dominates the opposition AND picks off interceptions. At the end of the game, you’re satisfied with his play because he’s limited the opposition and given up only one or two big plays, but you’d still rather have that alpha corner that dominates opp WRs.

    It’s the difference between a player who ‘limits the bleeding’ vs one who ‘makes the opposition bleed.’

  53. ruotsalainen says:

    LT – I thought of you the moment I heard this podcast the other week. Haven’t got around to passing it on to you though so, now I am letting you know. It’s from Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast series ‘Revisionist History,’ and is about Bobby Braddock. I won’t link because I am not sure how or if/where you get your podcasts from but a quick Google will suffice.

    Also, thank you for all the wonderful hockey writing over the years, even in the long days of summer I look forward to your posts, thoughts and all the commenters thoughts. Props to Woodguy and Money on the impressive site as well.

  54. Bag of Pucks says:

    John Chambers,

    I’m not disagreeing that RNH is the best fit for the job in the short-term, but ultimately I believe Leon will supplant him and the club will benefit accordingly.

    RNH doesn’t ‘shutdown’ the opposition and he doesn’t outscore them, so while it’s great to have him sacrificing for the good of the team to at least try and saw off against the toughs, ultimately we don’t win Cups, unless 1 or ideally both of those things start to occur from the 2C slot.

  55. Lowetide says:

    Bag of Pucks:
    John Chambers,

    I’m not disagreeing that RNH is the best fit for the job in the short-term, but ultimately I believe Leon will supplant him and the club will benefit accordingly.

    RNH doesn’t ‘shutdown’ the opposition and he doesn’t outscore them, so while it’s great to have him sacrificing for the good of the team to at least try and saw off against the toughs, ultimately we don’t win Cups, unless 1 or ideally both of those things start to occur from the 2C slot.

    We can hope Leon does it, and I’d even say the odds are good, but giving this team one more year of Nuge makes sense to me. Won’t be able to afford him past 17-18 imo but McDavid-Leon-Nuge is a nice depth chart. The one concern I have is Nuge not dominating the soft parade on nights when that is the match, but Caggiula was last year’s option so it will be an upgrade (if things break that way).

  56. Scungilli Slushy says:

    Bag of Pucks:
    Btw, one of the reasons I think RNH is dreadfully miscast as this team’s tough mins C in perpetuity is his FO%. Historically, the best two way Cs have always been strong on the dot as otherwise you’re chasing the game.

    One of the reasons I think Nuge is so respected is because he’s so dogged in puck pursuit and on the backcheck. But let’s be real, one of the reasons he has to play that way is because he’s so often chasing the play rather than driving it. And he’s smart enough to know that he has to win battles in the neutral zone because if the opposition wins the race to the boards or slot, he’ll lose the physical match-up there.

    RNH reminds me of a great cover corner that blankets the opposition but is not that super aggressive corner like a Revis or Sherman that absolutely dominates the opposition AND picks off interceptions. At the end of the game, you’re satisfied with his play because he’s limited the opposition and given up only one or two big plays, but you’d still rather have that alpha corner that dominates opp WRs.

    It’s the difference between a player who ‘limits the bleeding’ vs one who ‘makes the opposition bleed.’

    This is a good analogy, and the team knows this as they asked Nuge to find his offense again. He’s playing too uptight trying not to screw up but that can kill rhythm of play and end up being worse. Play smart but don’t overthink. He needs to be more assertive and get burnt the odd time but be better overall. We’ll see if he has the swagger

  57. Bag of Pucks says:

    Lowetide: We can hope Leon does it, and I’d even say the odds are good, but giving this team one more year of Nuge makes sense to me. Won’t be able to afford him past 17-18 imo but McDavid-Leon-Nuge is a nice depth chart. The one concern I have is Nuge not dominating the soft parade on nights when that is the match, but Caggiula was last year’s option so it will be an upgrade (if things break that way).

    Fully agree. I’m not an advocate of trading RNH at this time either. Doing so would be the OBC approach whereas Chia/TMac both seem to recognize and appreciate the shelter that RNH is providing Leon at this critical time in his development.

    My optimal scenario is by midseason, Leon’s flying in the role, you can take the training wheels off and move RNH to the wing.

    Most people have given up on Nuge as a goal scorer. I haven’t because I think the skill, shot and puck sense is there. What he is not is a player that can make a living in high traffic areas (i.e. in the slot). Put him on the wing where he can take passes in open ice and I think he’ll easily pot you 25. Plus if he’s not having to eat the tough match, he’ll probably have the energy to anchor a 2PP unit.

  58. SayItAin'tSo, Gretz, SayItAin'tSo! says:

    Seems like there is lots of angst around line matchups for this season. I feel like its worth pointing out that “hard matching” anyone against Connor (and for the sake of argument Leon) who isn’t in the same age bracket is only going to be more difficult for opposing teams than it is for the Oilers.

    McDavid is a year older, faster and stronger than he was last season.

    He is also wiser and knows the difference between playoff and regular season (and there is a big difference) as well as the differences between teams.

    You can try to hard match him but if he’s anything like Crosby he’ll learn your weaknesses very quickly and then he’ll expose you. He only has to play you for 60 minutes (25 of which he’ll be on the ice) and can proceed to ignore you for weeks and months on end after that. There won’t be much of Brandon Manning or Kesler rocking his boat in one off contests that a Kassian punch to the face won’t fix.

    Getzlaf, Kopitar, Thornton can’t keep up with him right now and the gap will only grow wider

    Connor McDavid isn’t a kid anymore. He’s an Art Ross, Heart and Lindsay trophy winner.

    He is the most offensively skilled and creative player in the NHL (note I did not say best)

    He eats puppies for breakfast, hunts Unicorn’s for sport and when he has a minute he arm wrestles Chuck Norris on the backhand.

    I’m hoping that once we get closer to training camp that Blainer will join in my unbridled optimism. It’s getting lonely over here.

  59. Bank Shot says:

    Scungilli Slushy: This is a good analogy, and the team knows this as they asked Nuge to find his offense again. He’s playing too uptight trying not to screw up but that can kill rhythm of play and end up being worse. Play smart but don’t overthink. He needs to be more assertive and get burnt the odd time but be better overall. We’ll see if he has the swagger

    Find what offence?

    RNH only scored 55 points when playing first line minutes and first PP minutes with the best possible linemates. He actually played some of the most minutes in the entire NHL for centers in 13/14(12th) and 14/15(2nd) when he was putting up 56 points.

    Those weren’t very good numbers based on his role and usage.

    I think it’s too much to expect for him to get back close to those numbers unless he plays with McDavid all year.

    I just wish RNH becomes as good defensively as some of his fans think he is. If he was a legitimately top tier two way forward, this team would be much better off.

  60. GMB3 says:

    Bag of Pucks: Fully agree. I’m not an advocate of trading RNH at this time either. Doing so would be the OBC approach whereas Chia/TMac both seem to recognize and appreciate the shelter that RNH is providing Leon at this critical time in his development.

    My optimal scenario is by midseason, Leon’s flying in the role, you can take the training wheels off and move RNH to the wing.

    Most people have given up on Nuge as a goal scorer. I haven’t because I think the skill, shot and puck sense is there. What he is not is a player that can make a living in high traffic areas (i.e. in the slot). Put him on the wing where he can take passes in open ice and I think he’ll easily pot you 25. Plus if he’s not having to eat the tough match, he’ll probably have the energy to anchor a 2PP unit.

    I think with better wingers he will be more successful in a shutdown role. A shutdown second line with Jordan Eberlr and Benoit Pouliot isn’t going to be successful imo. At least with last years iteration of Poo. And if Drai can take on the 2C role and it frees up Nuge for more offends a defensively responsible winger who puts up 50 points is a big piece of a winning team

  61. Bag of Pucks says:

    GMB3: I think with better wingers he will be more successful in a shutdown role. A shutdown second line with Jordan Eberlr andBenoit Pouliot isn’t going to be successful imo. At least with last years iteration of Poo. And if Drai can take on the 2C role and it frees up Nuge for more offends a defensively responsible winger who puts up 50 points is a big piece of a winning team

    Gonna be touch for him to get better in that role with a lifetime FO% of 43.2%

    My definition of a shutdown C is that you can comfortably throw him out for Dzone draws at a critical point in the game.

    I’ll never understand why we drafted Brad Richards and then proceeded to try and turn him into Rod Brindamour?

  62. Scungilli Slushy says:

    Bank Shot: Find what offence?

    RNH only scored 55 points when playing first line minutes and first PP minutes with the best possible linemates. He actually played some of the most minutes in the entire NHL for centersin 13/14(12th) and 14/15(2nd) when he was putting up 56 points.

    Those weren’t very good numbers based on his role and usage.

    I think it’s too much to expect for him to get back close to those numbers unless he plays with McDavid all year.

    I just wish RNH becomes as good defensively as some of his fans think he is. If he was a legitimately top tier two way forward, this team would be much better off.

    Nuge didn’t have a high offensive ceiling on draft day. That being said I was referring to him being better than the last two years.

    Somebody a while back here compared Nuge’s numbers to other centres by age and he was right on par given usage.

    A 60 point two way centre is a very helpful player. i think he can be that and he is not at his peak, he has room to grow by age.

    He is not a superstar but is a high end player. He has elite talent, he is smart. He is far from the problem up front.

  63. leadfarmer says:

    The chance that Nuge gets traded this offseason is next to 0. We have the cap space and the coach trusts him.

  64. Bank Shot says:

    Scungilli Slushy:

    A 60 point two way centre is a very helpful player. i think he can be that and he is not at his peak, he has room to grow by age.

    He is not a superstar but is a high end player. He has elite talent, he is smart. He is far from the problem up front.

    Is RNH’s talent elite?

    He’s played 6 NHL seasons and hasn’t hit 60 points. It’s possible that he has room to grow, but it’s really hard to find NHL players that grew substantially in offensive ability in seasons 7-8-9.

    Expecting RNH to turn into something else after 6 seasons in the league kind of reminds me of the eternal hope for Gagner when he was here.

    Odds are that RNH is what he is at this point.

    Hopefully he proves me wrong, but no one can say he hasn’t had a fair shot to show what he can do. He’s been found wanting thus far.

    Russell gets caved every year by shot metrics. The consensus is that he just isn’t good enough.

    RNH gets caved every year by shot metrics. Poor Nuge having to play the toughs. His line mates and team aren’t good enough.

    Isn’t this kind of hypocritical?

  65. Side says:

    Bank Shot: Is RNH’s talent elite?

    He’s played 6 NHL seasons and hasn’t hit 60 points. It’s possible that he has room to grow, but it’s really hard to find NHL players that grew substantially in offensive ability in seasons 7-8-9.

    Expecting RNH to turn into something else after 6 seasons in the league kind of reminds me of the eternal hope for Gagner when he was here.

    Odds are that RNH is what he is at this point.

    Hopefully he proves me wrong, but no one can say he hasn’t had a fair shot to show what he can do. He’s been found wanting thus far.

    Russell gets caved every year by shot metrics. The consensus is that he just isn’t good enough.

    RNH gets caved every year by shot metrics. Poor Nuge having to play the toughs. His line mates and team aren’t good enough.

    Isn’t this kind of hypocritical?

    Using Sam Gagner is a strange example, since last year was the first time he hit 50 points in his NHL career. I know you specified “when he was here” but looking at Sam’s career high total after his 10th NHL season is fueling my “So you’re tellin me there’s a chance” hope.

  66. John Chambers says:

    Bank Shot: Is RNH’s talent elite?

    RNH gets caved every year by shot metrics.

    In 2012-13 the Hall-Nuge-Ebs line held >50% possession.

    In 2014-15 Nuge was arguably the team’s best player.

    Last year he nearly sawed off the NHL’s elite, and if he and his linemates popped 4-6 more goals over the season we would be lauding our secondary scoring.

    We can agree to disagree about the current value of the player but where you’re getting the idea that RNH is some kind of liability or not a legitimate top-2 C is inaccurate

  67. LadiesloveSmid says:

    Pesce much different than Benning? Seems like the bar was set for that calibre player. Maybe it’s worthwhile signing Benning to ~3M over medium term right now

  68. John Chambers says:

    LadiesloveSmid,

    Benning could be a solid top-4 defenseman sometime this season but he’s not there yet.

    If you’ll recall, he was a HS for Game 1 against SJ as his play was in the level with Gryba’s at that point. Benning was steady throughout the playoffs, perhaps more apt to call him low-event at either end of the ice.

    Unless he really steps forward this year I still consider him a good bottom – pair D. The cost for such a player as an RFA is in the $2M – $2.5M range.

  69. Bag of Pucks says:

    Side: Using Sam Gagner is a strange example, since last year was the first time he hit 50 points in his NHL career. I know you specified “when he was here” but looking at Sam’s career high total after his 10th NHL season is fueling my “So you’re tellin me there’s a chance” hope.

    Not to mention that both Gagner and Cogliano better established themselves as NHLers after leaving EDM and moving to the wing.

    I don’t know why the Oil are so adverse to moving players positionally, when clearly other orgs seem capable of figuring this out?

    Nuge is a skilled 1OV that can’t win draws and doesn’t have a favourable frame for high traffic, high contact hockey. That screams W but apparently the Oilers have to be the last one on that bus. Frustrating.

  70. Bank Shot says:

    John Chambers: In 2012-13 the Hall-Nuge-Ebs line held >50% possession.

    In 2014-15 Nuge was arguably the team’s best player.

    Last year he nearly sawed off the NHL’s elite, and if he and his linemates popped 4-6 more goals over the season we would be lauding our secondary scoring.

    We can agree to disagree about the current value of the player but where you’re getting the idea that RNH is some kind of liability or not a legitimate top-2 C is inaccurate

    In 06-07, Lee Stempniak was arguably the St.Louis Blues best player. Didn’t make him elite. Just the best of a bad lot.

    Nuge hasn’t been a positive difference maker in the role he’s been asked to play.

    That kind of makes him a liability in that his salary is commensurate with a player that should be a difference maker.

    If RNH was putting up fancy stats like Mikael Backlund it would be hard to argue against his results.

    But he’s not.

    The verbal around RNH doesn’t match his statistics.
    If the Oilers are going to rise to the top, RNH’s play has to be better, or he needs to be replaced by a better player.

  71. blainer says:

    SayItAin'tSo, Gretz, SayItAin'tSo!:
    Seems like there is lots of angst around line matchups for this season. I feel like its worth pointing out that “hard matching” anyone against Connor (and for the sake of argument Leon) who isn’t in the same age bracket is only going to be more difficult for opposing teams than it is for the Oilers.

    McDavid is a year older, faster and stronger than he was last season.

    He is also wiser and knows the difference between playoff and regular season (and there is a big difference) as well as the differences between teams.

    You can try to hard match him but if he’s anything like Crosby he’ll learn your weaknesses very quickly and then he’ll expose you. He only has to play you for 60 minutes (25 of which he’ll be on the ice) and can proceed to ignore you for weeks and months on end after that. There won’t be much of Brandon Manning or Kesler rocking his boat in one off contests that a Kassian punch to the face won’t fix.

    Getzlaf, Kopitar, Thornton can’t keep up with him right now and the gap will only grow wider

    Connor McDavid isn’t a kid anymore. He’s an Art Ross, Heart and Lindsay trophy winner.

    He is the most offensively skilled and creative player in the NHL (note I did not say best)

    He eats puppies for breakfast, hunts Unicorn’s for sport and when he has a minute he arm wrestles Chuck Norris on the backhand.

    I’m hoping that once we get closer to training camp that Blainer will join in my unbridled optimism. It’s getting lonely over here.

    I’m already on the Optimistic boat with ya. We are winning the cup in 2018 .. Book it..

    Lot’s of room on the boat for more fans !!

  72. Scungilli Slushy says:

    Bank Shot: Is RNH’s talent elite?

    He’s played 6 NHL seasons and hasn’t hit 60 points. It’s possible that he has room to grow, but it’s really hard to find NHL players that grew substantially in offensive ability in seasons 7-8-9.

    Expecting RNH to turn into something else after 6 seasons in the league kind of reminds me of the eternal hope for Gagner when he was here.

    Odds are that RNH is what he is at this point.

    Hopefully he proves me wrong, but no one can say he hasn’t had a fair shot to show what he can do. He’s been found wanting thus far.

    Russell gets caved every year by shot metrics. The consensus is that he just isn’t good enough.

    RNH gets caved every year by shot metrics. Poor Nuge having to play the toughs. His line mates and team aren’t good enough.

    Isn’t this kind of hypocritical?

    I don’t know. He was considered the best hockey player in world for his age. Players asked about playing him before the NHL mention he is the smartest player they had been against.

    Maybe he’ll never develop at the NHL level as hoped, but he is not a flawed player that you compare him to in Gagner or other busts. High pick busts always have an issue (or at least one) that overcomes them in the NHL. Gagner and Yak’s weak skating kill them because the are small, both have limited hockey sense.

    Nuge has the tools. He just needs to be more assertive, he plays tentatively, and it hurts him.

  73. John Chambers says:

    Bank Shot,

    Ok fair comment

    I just think it’ll be dammed hard to replace Nuge.

    Like, sure you could replace him with Zemgus Girgensons and save $3M, but your team will be worse for it.

  74. Bank Shot says:

    John Chambers:
    Bank Shot,

    Ok fair comment

    I just think it’ll be dammed hard to replace Nuge.

    Like, sure you could replace him with Zemgus Girgensons and save $3M, but your team will be worse for it.

    Yeah I’m not saying it would be easy.

    Just like Russell, it’s not easy to go out and get a superior second pairing RD without giving up major assets or paying through the nose in free agency.

    I think they are both things that a GM needs to be constantly on the lookout for though.

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