We don’t know where this team will peak over the next nine seasons, but we do know the heart of the order, or most of it. Much of the script has been written, with this season bringing balance to a roster that hasn’t seen it since the spring of 2006. (Photo by Rob Ferguson).
PROJECTED OPENING NIGHT LINEUP, 2017-18
- Please check the numbers. If true, the Oilers miles and miles of room. If every bonus penny came home to roost, Edmonton would still have over $2 million at the deadline for new hires.
- Andrej Sekera is listed as active, with cap hit included, if there is a need to LTIR (or an advantage in doing it) that could create more room.
- Unless the team maxes cap, the Eberle for Strome deal didn’t have to occur for only money. It was a trade the Oilers wanted to make player in, player out in my opinion.
- Leon Draisaitl’s contract is somewhere down the highway waiting, like Rutger Hauer in The Hitcher. The contract absolutely has the potential to derail the heart of the order.
BAKERSFIELD CONDORS 2017-18
- My RE series will profile nine names on this (assumed) Bakersfield roster. One of the things we often underestimate with minor league/major league teams is the number of defenders used in a season. In 2016-17, Edmonton employed 12, the Condors 14.
- Five Condors defenders took a little trip to the NHL during the year: Matt Benning, Jordan Oesterle, Griffin Reinhart, Mark Fayne, Dillon Simpson.
- I have estimated five blue from the group above in the RE series.
CURRENT 50-MAN LIST
- I wrote about Jussi Jokkinen over at ON last night, he could be the new Pisani for this roster of young forwards. I’m not sure who Stoll and Torres are on this roster, but if the veteran Finn can mentor (say) Strome and Puljujarvi for a season, that could be a helluva good thing.
- For some reason, there’s a gigantic amount of talk about what might happen if Cam Talbot gets hurt. Folks, the Oilers were in the same situation a year ago, and most teams in the NHL are marching alongside. If Peter Chiarelli invested substantial money in a backup, the howls of misused dollars would no doubt be significant. It’s a risk, one that many NHL teams share.
- I like many of the bets here. Jokinen as a sliding forward is a really nice fit and could be amazing value; Auvitu is not an established option to replace Sekera until his return but it seems a reasonable bet to me.
- The Strome bet is the big one of summer. Chiarelli’s ‘Mirror Man’ for Leon Draisaitl came at a cost, and that is a lot of what we’re going to be talking about in the coming year. I think there are ways to ensure success for Strome, including expanded playing time as McDavid’s RW and using the former Islander in the Mark Letestu role. I imagine that will be a major part of the coming season.
- If Strome on RW works, it gives Todd McLellan the chance to create a strong second line, possibly Lucic-Draisaitl-Slepyshev (who were effective at the end of the playoffs). If that line can score 70 goals, and McDavid’s line scores 85 (86 between McDavid, Draisaitl, Maroon a year ago), the Oilers should push for the division title.
- The opportunity to cobble together a third scoring line out of Jokinen, Nuge and Puljujarvi exists, Drake Caggiula or Zack Kassian could also insert themselves into the conversation.
- If Strome can’t deliver enough offense to remain in the heart of the order, mirror man may be Jussi Jokinen.
WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
One of the things I’ve been watching this summer is just how satisfied the fanbase is with last season, and how much Oilers Nation is looking forward to the coming year. Most of the blogs have focused on the negative, probably going to take some time to believe the wins will continue. The worries about the coming season are:
- Andrej Sekera’s injury and its impact on the season.
- Strome’s ability to replace Eberle’s contribution.
- The team’s youth will take a step back.
The Sekera worry is real, with the Auvitu addition a terrific bet but a bet all the same. Strome’s addition (for Eberle) looks like a net loss for sure, that’s a bet that is going to need a little help and could fail (with very little established help, possibly forcing Jokinen into a more substantial role).
The one thing being argued currently I don’t buy is the entire group of kids taking a step back. We don’t know what we don’t know, but the idea that Jesse Puljujarvi, Anton Slepyshev and Drake Caggiula all step back isn’t something I can buy. Betting against Puljujarvi for the coming season is one thing, but all of the kids? One of these youngsters is going to emerge, my only question in that area is timing. If Puljujarvi doesn’t emerge this fall, I’m not worried about him long term, but the current season would suffer from a 30-game audition. That’s the danger here, and the value of adding Jokinen becomes even more clear.