The hills are are alive with the sound of music, with Kris Russell about to sign for a thousand years. Probably $8 million a season. I kid, but just barely. Oilers twitter has gone full Rodgers and Hammerstein these days, and it is certainly understandable. However, since the Peter Chiarelli quote was “at some point, we’ll talk about an extension” best to put off the appointment with the ledge.
The quote does offer some interesting avenues moving forward. First stop: Lefty-righty. We know for a certainty that Peter Chiarelli is aware of—and values—the left-right rule of acquisitions.
- Peter Chiarelli: “We’ve brought in Adam Larsson, a high pedigree player, although not as well known to this community as in other hockey circles. He’s a right shot, that’s important in the righty/lefty scheme of things.”
The lefty-righty scheme of things has improved under Chiarelli, as he has added Larsson and Matt Benning at the NHL level, and some interesting players bubbling under (Ethan Bear, Filip Berglund, John Marino). Next step? Cull the herd.
ALL THAT LEFT
Let’s say you and I are at Timmy’s, and we latch on to the idea of how the Oilers should deploy their lefty blue in 2017-18. Here is how I see things for next season (assuming Kris Russell signs with the team).
- Andrej Sekera—He has been the best defender on the team this year, posting 32, 4-9-13 +10 in 21:33. He can be utilized in all three disciplines effectively, and his 51 percent Corsi for 5×5 percentage includes helping his partners elevate their games when playing alongside.
- Oscar Klefbom—A big part of the future also fills some tall boots in real time. Klefbom is over 20 minutes a night (21:27), 32gp, 5-7-12 -4 and he is healthy this year. He and Larsson are the top pair and are over 50 percent in possession together—and that is a good sign for the future. He also has 74 shots—easily the most among Edmonton defensemen.
- Kris Russell—He is 25gp, 0-5-5 +5 in 21:34 per night with Edmonton. The Oilers have used him heavily on the penalty kill, suspect that would continue if Russell is signed to an extension. Russell, Sekera and Eric Gryba have been top PK men by minutes/average this year. I think the most likely pairing for Russell is Sekera—they are 47.3 Corsi for as a tandem 5×5. Current wisdom has playing on your off side costing three to six percent, so with Russell at 45.8 for the year, we can put him in the range of 49 percent possession this year. Fair? He is at 445 minutes now.
- Darnell Nurse—Assuming Larsson matches up with Klefbom next year, and Sekera with Russell, Nurse slides into a night spot with (probably) Matt Benning. He is 25gp, 3-2-5 -3 in 17:40 a night, lots of PK time. Great possession recovery (53.2) season over season and he has played well with Matt Benning, Eric Gryba and others. Still a lot of hesitation from many in regard to his progress, the injury occurred at a bad time.
- Brandon Davidson—We now reach the sticky wicket portion of our tour. If Edmonton is going to sign Russell, I can’t imagine he agrees without assurances of expansion protection. That backs up Davidson, and puts him as No. 6-7D (the four men above, plus Larsson) along with Benning. It also makes him vulnerable to the expansion draft. Would Edmonton consider trading him? I can’t see the value being there, despite great performances in the NHL. I can see Chiarelli making a deal with Las Vegas to stay away from Davidson in exchange for a sweetener.
I would take these five men, along with the two righties, and feel pretty good about next season. However, here is the problem: The current issues (RH who can help on the power play, second pair RHD—the Russell spot) remain the current issues.
- Fact: If Peter Chiarelli signs Russell, we can be assured there will be at least one pairing next season that is two lefties.
I think Todd McLellan probably signs off on those seven names, and if you gaze at the rest of the pro roster (projected) there is some interesting depth as well.
Is that a playoff defense? I like the veteran aspect, dislike the lefty-lefty second pair alignment (no one is talking about the impact of playing on the offside, but if we are fair to Russell it is a factor based on what we know) and wonder about the big shot from the point. The No. 1 D is going to be Klefbom in this model, and I do think he is trending overall in a good way:
OSCAR KLEFBOM 15-16
- 5×5 points per 60: 0.93 (1st among regular D)
- 5×4 points per 60: 3.11 (2nd among regular D)
- Corsi for 5×5 %: 52.4
- Qual Comp: 172 minutes against elite (No. 3, behind Sekera/Larsson) (via WoodMoney)
- Corsi for 5×5 % REL: 2.0
- Shots on goal/percentage: 74 shots/6.8 percent
- Boxcars: 32gp, 5-7-12
- Information via Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com and hockey-reference.
So Klefbom has played the third most difficult minutes, and the bet here is that he and Larsson can play top pairing one year from now. If Peter Chiarelli signs Kris Russell, that is my bet for the top pairing 2017-18. Thoughts?
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) December 15, 2016
The lockout season was an anomaly, but even there the Oilers are tracking ahead of that team:
- Current record: 32gp, 15-12-5, 35 points
- 2012-13 record: 32gp, 12-13-7, 31 points
Based on online comments, tis the season for trade proposals. Early in his time with the Bruins, Chiarelli made several in-season deals—mostly to address the defense. I imagine he is at least somewhat satisfied with the defense (after all, he is at least considering negotiations with the only major UFA), so any trade is likely to involve a forward. We can probably narrow the field even more, to shooter—and righty shooter. Let’s take a look at the leading shooters this season and some of the righties who may or may not be available:
- C-R Nathan Mackinnon 28gp, 8-12-20, 102 shots
- R Blake Wheeler 32gp, 8-14-22, 87 shots
- R Radim Vrbata 29gp, 8-11-19, 86 shots
- L Artemi Panarin 32gp, 11-15-26, 82 shots
- R Patrick Eaves 30gp, 11-8-19, 76 shots
These men are righties, inside the top 50 shooters this season, and you could create a scenario where Edmonton might be able to pry each of them from their current team. I am sure your initial reaction is to ask if I took my meds, but there are things to consider. Take Panarin, as an example. Chicago has $60 million on the books for next season and only 14 players signed. Could Chiarelli pluck Panarin for a major package? Don’t know, but we can discuss the idea in my opinion, because there is a reckoning out there for Chicago. It is extremely unlikely Nathan Mackinnon ever gets traded, but if you look at the Avalanche roster there is a real balance issue—perhaps the team will re-set after what is looking like a disappointing year. Anyway, if Peter Chiarelli decides he needs to find a sniper for 97, he might as well aim high, as I have done here.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A fun day on the show, beginning at 10, TSN1260. Scheduled to appear:
- Darcy McLeod, Because Oilers. Pouliot as an option with McDavid, Russell signing and what may come, Brossoit versus Gustavsson.
- Ryan Smyth! Former Oilers great will be on to talk about a New Year’s Eve bash out in Spruce Grove, and answer a few hockey questions, too. I am hoping he will battle Lt_Eric in the corner, flatten him, and then drive to the net with the puck! Please send any questions to the comments section below and I will get to as many as I can.
- Frank Seravalli, TSN. We will chat about the Oilers season, and about Peter Chiarelli’s mind set as we get closer to the trade deadline.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!