The Edmonton Oilers went for a stroll and plucked two veteran defensemen from the pool. In Nikita Nikitin, the club was looking for a puck-moving man who could play defense, help the power play and serve as mentor to the young troops. It is, again, an attempt to ‘find Pronger’ in one or two, or three men. It’s been a long road from 2006 summer to today, and the clouds and blues remain.
NIKITA NIKITIN 13-14
- 5×5 points per 60: 0.84 (2nd among regular CBJ D)
- 5×4 points per 60: nil
- Qual Comp: 6th toughest faced among regular CBJ D (3rd pairing)
- Qual Team: 5th best available teammates among regular D (3rd pairing)
- Corsi for 5×5 %: 49.2
- Corsi for 5×5 % REL: -1.9
- Zone Start: 49.3% (4th easiest among regular CBJ D)
- Zone Finish: 48.4% (5th best among regular D)
- Shots on goal/percentage: 95/2.1%
- Boxcars: 66, 2-13-15
RE 14-15 PREVIEW
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- So, who did he face in Columbus? Third pairing opponents.
- Mid-to-easy competition? Easy like Sunday morning.
- He performed well in the role? Well, he’s at almost 50%, but compared to his team is lagging. I think it’s pretty clear Nikitin lost playing time because others were more effective. You want a veteran to be more effective in that role.
- So, we’re not getting a No. 1 D? I think Edmonton has better options, like Fayne and Petry.
- How is the offense? Good. At EV, he scored at about the same rate as Justin Schultz. He can move the puck and has a hammer from the point.
- He’ll get power-play time? Yes. Certainly more than last year, when he spent less than one minute a game with the man advantage.
- Why did they hire him? I think Scott Howson probably had a lot to do with it.
- Inside knowledge? Sure, it’s an established method of doing business.
- Does it run contrary to the sound moves this summer? Yes, quite a bit. This is clearly a hunch bet.
- Dammit! Well, hold on a minute here. Let’s take into account the things this year’s numbers don’t tell us.
- Like what? Like, his power-play ability. Three years ago he scored 3-6-9 in 2:45 a night.
- Is that good? Better than any Oiler not named Justin Schultz last season.
- So we have another third pairing guy but this one can play with the man advantage? I’m fairly certain Edmonton plans to run him on the second pairing.
- Who should he play with? A year ago, CBJ paired him most often with young David Savard, a righty who had played 35 games in the NHL entering the season. So, the Oilers might want to pair him with Marincin or Klefbom.
- Do believe they will? No, not really. He’ll get Fayne is my guess. A ‘new duo’ who will vie with Marincin-Petry for the top pairing and allow Ference to mentor some of the new fellows.
- Why did they go get this guy? They saw him good. Look, Nikita Nikitin has had seasons of effective play in the NHL. He isn’t 40, Howson knows him and the club needed a veteran (really two veterans, including Fayne) to add in one summer. I suspect the free-agent window told them to expect Fayne and they didn’t want to be without that second veteran. It’s a risk, and Howson’s reputation is tied to this signing, but that’s how they arrived at the spot.
- There were other, better options in free agency. Again, I think it’s rational to suggest they targeted several free agents, found themselves one short. Howson argued that he could get this fellow signed, maybe they didn’t want him to see what free agency would bring and fired their cannons. I’m not saying it’s brilliant, only that it’s understandable. And he isn’t 40, has 10 fingers and toes, and at least one season of success behind him. Add that to the fact he’s played in 206 NHL games (there’s a line somewhere that matures these guys between 200-300 games) and maybe this is a risk worth taking.
- Why this song? For our purposes, it’s about Chris Pronger. It’s about how much has happened since “the one” left us, and about how many it takes to equal the one we hold most dear. And no matter how many, it’s never the same and we feel it’ll never be the same, we know it’ll never be the same. We are stuck in time emotionally, waiting for the rake 2.0 to appear. How’s that going for you? Not well, thanks. Not well.