The stories surrounding Edmonton’s NHL team this morning could not have been anticipated before Christmas: Zack Kassian is an Oiler, Brad Hunt and Anton Lander will be feature players on the PP. The Oilers are beaten up on the blue, need over 40 stops per win, and can’t piss a drop on the 5×4. No wonder they want to change the script.
HAWKWIND, 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: 7-4-1
- Oilers after 37 in 2014-15: 8-22-7, 23 points (-54 GD)
- Oilers after 37 in 2015-16: 15-19-3, 33 points (-18 GD)
G38 last season was an OT loss to Calgary and sniper Josh Jooris (lordy). Still a point was a point back then, remains the same tonight. Edmonton is between a rock and a hard place, there is a very good team in town. One good thing? LAK played last night in Vancouver, and their arms are tired from raising them in the air.
OILERS BLUE, 2015-16
- Brandon Davidson skated yesterday, McLellan’s Oilers have a timeline and that may mean we see the defender on the weekend.
- Brad Hunt will play—my guess is Gryba will be his partner—and based on reports we should see him hammer pucks on the power play. If he gets one through, Hunt probably hangs around through the end of January on that one goal. It has been a lean time for the 5×4.
- I would go Sekera—Fayne, Nurse—Schultz, Hunt—Gryba. Mr. McLellan will not do this.
- The fact they are fiddling with Schultz on the PP and are trying him on his off side suggests they are looking for solutions and getting him farther from his comfort zone. This doesn’t normally end well.
- I like the top three names on that list a lot, and would be fine with Nurse and Gryba on the third pairing. Sekera is feeling the range now, very important to get him with an effective partner. I love Darnell Nurse, but the NHL is almost impossible for a rookie defenseman to play 24 minutes. The Oilers have no margin for error and this is too much of an ask of Nurse in my opinion.
- Reinhart not being in the NHL now suggests to me they want him to have success in the minors, play a lot, and return as a regular. That may not come until the trade deadline.
- David Rundblad is on waivers.
David Rundblad is worth a flier for some team looking for more defense depth. pic.twitter.com/Uknb8VmZDc
— Ryan Wilson (@GunnerStaal) December 28, 2015
David Rundblad has skating issues, but also brings skill. He is RH, 6.02 187 and scores 18 points per 82GP in the NHL. He can pass the puck—the main reason I have noticed him—and he has a plus shot. If there is an expansion draft, he could hit 45 points and become a fan favorite in Las Seattle. He is a $1.05M cap hit and has another year to go on his contract.
Here is my take: Edmonton is probably at least satisfied with LH side blue for next season: Sekera, Klefbom, Davidson, Nurse, Reinhart. Now, they can move Sekera over but don’t have to, and if he stays left I would say Edmonton has the position covered.
RH side? There are lots of options, very few are both good and satisfy Todd McLellan’s style. Justin Schultz, Mark Fayne, Eric Gryba? Edmonton could retain one of those men, but the fact is each is too one dimensional. They need another Sekera over there, and then Edmonton could keep one of those one-dimensional men third pairing. Like this:
You could do that, right? So that is my answer. If Peter Chiarelli has questions about the future of Gryba, Fayne and Schultz as Oilers—and that may be true—then Rundblad is worth a waiver claim. My own personal opinion, as a fan? I like Mark Fayne more than the rest. He is an NHL defenseman. I would run him for the rest of the season in the top four and stop pissing around. Save the lost causes for the country songs.
If the Oilers claim Rundblad, and I think it is possible (but another team could beat them to it), Justin Schultz is probably in a spot of bother on this roster.
- Leon Draisaitl’s numbers have come down but they are still fan-freaking-tastic. His line is still averaging 7 scoring chances for per game. Nuts.
- Connor McDavid’s numbers remain rookie perfection.
- RNH is improving in important areas, if the three high C’s can approach 2.00/60 at 5×5 that would be wild times.
- Lander is getting PP time tonight. In the name of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer LET THE MAN SCORE!
- I am liking Letestu more as the season wears along. Not much EV offense, but that 3line can be counted on more than early days and that is progress.
- Taylor Hall is across the board great this season, these numbers are drop dead gorgeous. One day, if he keeps this up, maybe he will approach a point-per-game.
- Jordan Eberle’s offense is climbing, can he reach 2.00/60 at 5×5? That 2line came alive last game, hope they can build on it.
- Teddy Purcell and Benoit Pouliot will both eventually be too expensive but it is nice to have veteran wingers who know what the hell they are doing. Pouliot has been inconsistent lately, but the two-goal game was a nice reminder of his skill.
- Nail Yakupov is long forgotten, but that kind of production (and McDavid) will really help in the second half of the year.
- When everyone is back and healthy, added to Kassian (who will play for Edmonton sometime after the AS break) who is going away? My 14F are McDavid, Leon, Nuge, Letestu, Lander, Hall, Pouliot, Hendricks, Pakarinen, Purcell, Eberle, Yakupov, Korpikoski, Kassian.
- Not making my list? Khaira (minors), Gazdic (waivers), Slepyshev (minors), Miller (minors) and Klinkhammer (waivers).
- Korpikoski had such a bad start he will never recover his fancies, but he has improved those numbers markedly over recent games.
If you want to see what the Oilers will look like in two years, check out the LAK tonight and ask yourself how many Eberle’s and Nuge’s he will cast on a PC Oil team in skill positions. Answer: Several. David Krecji, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Tyler Seguin are not big men. I think Chiarelli would like wingers to be bigger, to be able to win more battles. Kassian is one hire, there will be more. I think Lucic has a lot of miles on him, but would not be surprised to see a strong pitch from the Oilers if the big man reaches the FA window.
Nail Yakupov. It must be Nail Yakupov. Nathan Beaulieu, Michael McCarron, Artturi Lehkonen. You won’t get all of them, but Yak City would be a nice addition for the Habs. They have a more structured group and need a sniper, plus Montreal has oodles of two-way centers—someone could find chem with Yakupov. I hope he doesn’t go, for me the things Montreal values should also be important to the Oilers.
Edmonton’s forwards are actually fine in my opinion. If they ran this crew for the rest of the season:
Would that be a good forward group? I think it would be, you could replace Lander with Kassian if you had a mind too but the RNH trio would probably see some tougher matchups, especially at home. I think the Oilers have a scratch they want to itch in regard to McDavid and Eberle, so we might see this:
A lot has been made about trading RNH, you can’t watch a national broadcast (I wish the national broadcasters would watch the Oilers once in awhile) without the Nuge being mentioned as a trade option.
- Todd McLellan on the subject of Peter Chiarelli: “When it’s all said and done we’re both without our families in Edmonton, so we spend a lot of time together. I think that’s been really valuable. I would say [his philosophy] is strong down the middle. The goalie plays in the middle, and he likes big, heavy, strong and hard centermen. But that’s not a philosophy that’s unique to Peter. That’s a philosophy that travels around the league. If you can be strong down the middle with a goaltender and big, strong centers, then you have a better chance of winning than losing. But the people you augment those stars with are real, real important too.” Source
In 2010-11, during the Stanley season, Chiarelli’s Bruins had five centermen take over 300 faceoffs:
- Patrice Bergeron (6.01, 195 ) took 1439 FOs and won 56.6 percent.
- David Krejci (6.0, 186) took 1149 FOs and won 48.7 percent.
- Greg Campbell (6.0, 197) took 832 FOs and won 51.7 percent.
- Marc Savard (5.10, 191) took 328 FOs and won 50.9 percent.
- Tyler Seguin (6.01, 200) took 303 FOs an won 49.5 percent.
When we hear big, heavy, strong, I think the thought process migrates toward height and weight, but if you watch Bergeron or Krejci (not big men) they are strong and hard on the puck, relentless forecheckers and backcheckers. Big is perhaps not the ideal word.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (6.0, 189) 567 FOs and 46.0 percent.
- Mark Letestu (5.10, 197) 486 FOs and 52.3 percent.
- Anton Lander (6.0, 184) 444 FOs and 55.2 percent.
- Leon Draisaitl (6.01, 214) 459 FOs and 47.3 percent.
- Connor McDavid (6.01, 190) 151 FOs and 36.4 percent.
Peter Chiarelli liked big wingers, and loved two-way centers who played a 200-foot game in Boston. That’s one reason Tyler Seguin was expendable in my opinion: Krejci and Bergeron played more complete games and Chiarelli likes Lucic and Horton types on the wing.
- There is no Lowdown today, will be back tomorrow. Canada at the WJs will be on TSN1260.
- If Rundblad is claimed, I will have a post on it.
- Errol White is at the World Juniors, and has sent me some photos and his read on the tournament so far. I plan on posting it some time today, either here or at ON. Stay tuned.