My three favorite games by the Oilers this season (In Calgary, at home to Montreal and the Rangers on Sather night) involved overcoming difficulties and pushing the river when the opportunity arose. The man games lost is a part of the story of this season, and because of it (imo), games like those three disappeared (mostly) after early December. If Edmonton was a winner in January, fans knew to look for Cam Talbot to have a big game. The last 32 games of this season need more balance, more control, more sustained possession and better special teams—and nights when this team can push the river. Connor McDavid should help some of that, one hopes the return of Brandon Davidson and Oscar Klefbom stills the waters in the defensive zone. All bound for Morningtown, many miles away.
I am always struck by the second half of an AHL season. For some reason, it seems the rubber hits the road and prospects begin to either find the range or fade away. Here are the numbers for January:
- Jordan Oesterle 10, 2-5-7 (20 shots)
- Josh Winquist 6, 4-2-6 (19 shots)
- Ryan Hamilton 10, 3-3-6 (32 shots)
- Andrew Miller 8, 2-4-6 (20 shots)
- Tyler Pitlick 6, 3-2-5 (19 shots)
- Joey Laleggia 6, 3-2-5 (8 shots)
- Matt Ford 8, 3-2-5 (24 shots)
- Rob Klinkhammer 3, 3-1-4 (10 shots)
- Jujhar Khaira 5, 1-3-4 (10 shots)
- Marco Roy 10, 2-2-4 (12 shots)
- C Josh Currie 10, 0-3-3 (17 shots)
- David Musil 10, 0-3-3 (7 shots)
- Brad Hunt 1, 0-2-2 (5 shots)
- Zack Kassian 5, 1-1-2 (11 shots)
- Griffin Reinhart 8, 1-1-2 (10 shots)
- Kellen Jones 9, 0-2-2 (10 shots)
- Dillon Simpson 10, 1-1-2 (5 shots)
- Greg Chase 4, 0-1-1 (10 shots)
- Kyle Platzer 4, 0-1-1 (7 shots)
- Phil McRae 6, 0-1-1 (19 shots)
- Martin Gernat 7, 0-1-1 (5 shots)
- Kale Kessy 7, 1-0-1 (4 shots)
- Nikita Nikitin 8, 0-1-1 (12 shots)
- Mitch Moroz 9, 0-1-1 (6 shots)
- Laurent Brossoit 7, 2.99 .916
- Eetu Laurikainen 3, 3.00 .916
OILERS BLUE ON BLUE
Edmonton's defense has no idea what identity to go for…and it shows. pic.twitter.com/AqON1SpgY4
— Carolyn Wilke (@Classlicity) January 27, 2016
As a visual learner, this is extremely powerful. Andrej Sekera, Mark Fayne, Brandon Davidson, Oscar Klefbom, battle river and survive. The rest? Lordy. Darnell Nurse will eventually recover but this shows how curious it is to run Nurse-Schultz so heavily. I believe the young blue played well in his first games, but has faded over time. Here are the cumulative numbers after G19, with Nurse having played 10 games:
This is a few games after McDavid has been injured, Nurse had played 10 games and Griffin Reinhart 11 games. I received a couple of emails yesterday stating it had been a mistake to recall Nurse and send Reinhart down, wanted to point out a few things. First, Connor McDavid went down during G13, meaning Reinhart would have played five games with McDavid, and Nurse would have played four games while 97 was healthy. Second, during the first 10 games Nurse played in Edmonton, he was in fact superior to Reinhart’s efforts (GR was injured during this time as well, so we need to factor it in).
Not a massive deal, but we should remember when we compare the Nurse and Reinhart numbers now, there are important differences in their handling and the quality of the team during their respective times in Edmonton. I have suggested, and remain convinced, Nurse is and was a superior player to Reinhart. Usage, injury and other factors have us here. Important to include all elements when we discuss these things. I do not believe the Oilers would have iced a superior team if they had kept Reinhart up and left Nurse on the farm. Do you?
Ziat Paigin on #Oilers:'Fans want me? That's great. My contract is one more year up. Let's see there. But sure – I'd like to play in the NHL
— Igor Eronko (@IgorEronko) January 24, 2016
Paigin is one of the few eligible draft choices in the Edmonton system who is worth signing and turning pro this summer. If we assume Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones, John Marino will stay in their amateur leagues, and that Paigin doesn’t buy out his contract, here is the pool to choose from:
- D William Lagesson—A solid freshman year at UMass-Amherst has him going in a good direction, as we saw at the WJs. He turns 20 in February, so could sign. Would the Oilers consider turning another lefty blue pro at this time? Seems unlikely.
- F Tyler Vesel—One guy I think we can hold out some hope for (in terms of landing a pro deal) but it is probably two years away (he is a sophomore at Nebraska—Omaha). Good two-way player, Oilers may have a solid pro here (not necessarily an NHL pro).
- L Evan Campbell—A member of the famed ‘BCJHL mob’ that has netted Edmonton Jujhar Khaira and little else in the last seven drafts (Kyle Bigos, Kellen Jones, Jujhar Khaira, Evan Campbell, Liam Coughlin—yes I am aware of Anders Nilsson, but the procurement department should not receive credit for that imo). He does not appear to be progressing.
- G Zach Nagelvoort—Not only he is failing to make progress, he hasn’t played much lately. He did play against the US National Development team last week and won.
- F Aidan Muir—Big forward is not making progress offensively in year two at Western Michigan. I wonder if Peter Chiarelli ever sits at his desk looking at these numbers and wonders why?
- G Miroslav Svoboda—having a good season since the trade but no sound reason to bring him over yet.
- G Keven Bouchard—QMJHL goalies don’t have good numbers, Bouchard is struggling in his new town and unless they calculate save percentage differently (the Q is the most innovative junior league, so I wouldn’t put it past them to be better shot counters) he is a NP.
I think we may see Edmonton sign Marco Roy, Josh Winquist, Josh Currie types to NHL deals, or add NCAA or CHL free agents this summer via NHL deals. Based on these last couple of seasons, bet heavily on Bakersfield signing a few of these players. Edmonton needs to add players, and the procurement department has no obvious signing options from past draft boards.
Dreger: "I don't believe that Chiarelli is shopping either" Nugent-Hopkins or Eberle. Thinks it would take a mammoth-type of trade. #Oilers
— Chris Nichols (@NicholsOnHockey) January 26, 2016
As we edge closer to the deadline (and then summer) I remain hopeful Peter Chiarelli will use draft picks and cap room to help him bring in defensive help. The idea of trading for a top defender under control faded (for me) when the price for Seth Jones was revealed. If adding a talented but unproven defender comes at a cost of a bona fide No. 1 center, then perhaps PC can get by with two secondary additions to this defense.
That brings me to the next item of business. If we can agree that the Oilers will probably have their first-round pick in play, and that the pick (no matter how good) won’t get you both, what else can they trade? Where is Edmonton’s depth and quality so strong they can afford to take a piece and remain strong? Young left-handed defensemen. The list is absolutely endless! If you include Ziyat Paigin, the list stretches literally for miles.
OILERS LH BLUE PLAYING PRO HOCKEY
- Andrej Sekera
- Oscar Klefbom
- Brandon Davidson
- Darnell Nurse
- Griffin Reinhart
- Brad Hunt
- Andrew Ference
- Niki Nikitin
- David Musil
- Jordan Oesterle
- Joey Laleggia
- Dillon Simpson
- Martin Gernat
- Ben Betker
- Ziyat Paigin
I am not obsessed with lefty-righty (our forum has all the seats for those meetings filled and there is a massive list who want to join), but good grief that is a monster lack of balance. As we venture into the spring and summer, balance will once again take over as a main theme for this blog. Balance may look strange on the day it arrives, because it might mean moving Darnell Nurse or Oscar Klefbom, moving that dandy Brandon Davidson contract or Griffin Reinhart. Peter Chiarelli has very few areas where he can borrow from and remain strong, left-handed defense is a monster on this roster. Someone is moving.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A busy, fun show today, 10 this morning on TSN1260. It is Bell Let’s Talk day, so some of the content will surround the subject and the cause, tune in for that and the usual. Scheduled to appear:
- Bruce McCurdy, Cult of Hockey. All-Star Game and what to do about that defense in the final 32 games of the season.
- Jeff Hauser, Radio Hauser. He called the Broncos win, I will be looking for his Super Bowl pick, or at least find out which way he is leaning.
- Rob Vollman, ESPN. Where would the Oilers be with an average number of injuries?
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. 90 minutes!