The Edmonton Oilers were 12-24-3 on December 27. Since then, the club is 12-12-6 in 30 games. Most of that is goaltending and is not sustainable. However, it’s still a lot more fun watching a team that wins once or twice a week than the alternative.
Oscar Klefbom is making an impression. Dallas Eakins had some nice things to say about him after the game yesterday. Article is here.
- Eakins: “He’s been night-and-day for me from those first 30 minutes he played for us. We still have to protect him a little bit — that’s the fair thing to do with a man of his experience — but so far, so good. He’s making progress.”
Klefbom follows Martin Marincin to the show, and the pair of defensemen may end up being a major story this summer. The Oilers plan to upgrade the blueline, and one of them may end up being sent away (in a package) for a more experienced hand. I’d prefer they stay—the Oilers don’t know which one is the better player—but you have to give in order to get and both will have high value on the open market.
There is one idea that comes to mind in regard to these two defensemen. Why not keep everyone away for one season? Send Nurse back to junior, Ekblad too, don’t cloud the issue. Run something like this:
- Mark Fayne-Schultz
for 2014-15, and then bring in Ekblad and Nurse to the conversation. At that point the club may have to buy out Ference or trade one of their useful blue, but that’s a helluva lot better problem than what we’re seeing now. Right? I like Klefbom, he might end up being a top 4D in time, and it’s important to break him in as smoothly as possible. Counting on another Marincin-style transition is folly.
Same article, less glowing about Lander (again from the coach).
- Eakins: “If (Lander) is going to play here, he has to be able to play centre, he has to play left-wing and he has to play right-wing. He has to be able to step in on the power play and kill penalties. He has to be able to wear a bunch of different hats.”
It’s a good quote because we see the role Edmonton sees Lander possibly filling. The Swede’s issues (as I see them) are lack of offensive ability and foot speed. Those are pretty big items for an NHL team, and despite his strong showing in Oklahoma City this season it’s not certain he’ll make it. Oiler fans should be prepared for a Hartikainen-esque summer that sees AL sign in Europe and then get dealt—unless he shows enough to earn a one-way deal.
Lander is exposed in that MacT and Eakins have no connection to the player. He was here and part of the losing when both arrived. I’d like to say that made no difference, but in hockey history that seems to be a major deal. I expect the Russian Yakimov has a better chance of playing on next year’s team.
These auditions are important because the Oilers have their jacks and kings, but are in real need of role and support players. Imagine a world in which Klefbom is a natural and complete fit for Justin Schultz. What does that do for the depth chart? A lot. Also, picture a world in which Anton Lander occupies 4line C but can also move up to 3line as needed, penalty kill (giving Nuge a rest) and sit in the pressbox when required. That’s a valuable role player.
These are lesser items than drafting Nail Yakupov, but the Oilers have been out of balance since MacT’s coaching days, and badly need to have quality, depth and versatility on the roster. Sweet Jesus, they’re playing our song!
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
Wear green today! On the Lowdown at 10 (TSN 1260) we’ll hit the ground running for the week. Scheduled to appear:
- Scott Burnside: Who comes out of the west? Does Pittsburgh have any forward depth?
- Travis Yost: WHAT was that? The Sens shot themselves in the foot this weekend.
- Bruce McCurdy: What do the Oilers do with these young blue? Plus 2014 draft.
- Andrew Bucholtz: CFL regional combine this week in Edmonton, we’ll talk football and the CFL draft.
10-1260 via text or @Lowetide_ on twitter.