RE 17-18 DILLON SIMPSON: THE PRETENDER

If the measure of a man is how far he travels from the place he began, Dillon Simpson is already a smashing success. From the day he was drafted in 2011, Simpson has improved a little or a lot in each season, finally arriving in the NHL for a cup of coffee last season. When you consider what was being written about him six years ago, it’s impressive the young man remains in the game at all, let alone approaching the highest levels of his sport. (The Pretender)

  • Bruins Draft Watch, spring 2011: He’s a work in progress who has some soft hands and hockey sense, but isn’t a great skater. He’s slow out of the blocks and needs to work on his stride to get the most out of his movement. Scouts see intriguing elements of his game, but after 12 goals and 41 points last year with Spruce Grove of the AJHL, more of an impact was expected from him- he did not deliver. This is not to say Simpson isn’t a legitimate NHL prospect- he is. He grew up around the game and has the natural athleticism to be a player, but this season showed that it is going to take time and he’d require a leap of faith for a team to draft him in the first two rounds. Source

RE 17-18: 11GP, 0-1-1

  1. What is unique about his story? Simpson has worked hard on improving his play every year and is has paid off. Gerry Fleming called him the most consistent player in Bakersfield after the 2015-16 season and that’s his calling card. He isn’t a bullet on skates, he doesn’t have a monster shot and he can’t wrestle a bear, but good things happen with him on the ice.
  2. What does Todd McLellan think of him? Todd McLellan: “He’s a heady player, he sees the ice well, he moves pucks. We have a lot of confidence in him. Last year at training camp, little bit banged up and didn’t really get himself on the map. This year through training camp he found a way to get on the map. We have a lot more confidence in him now than we did then.” 
  3. Is there proof of his performance? The graph above shows good results and Simpson’s resume has all kinds of evidence along a similar path. Nothing he does on the ice is going to be a wow moment but the results, over time, are there.
  4. What is his ceiling? I don’t think anyone has mentioned a ‘Brandon Davidson gear’ but he can pass the puck and does have some offense. He has outscored Davidson (150gp, 11-17-28 .187) in the AHL by posting 10-38-48 .265 in 181 games.
  5. What role will Simpson apply for upon NHL arrival? I think third pairing,  good coverage NHL defender.
  6. Could he emerge as an NHL regular? I think it’s possible. We have to acknowledge his ability to improve on his weaknesses and move up the depth chart. This thing Dillon Simpson has been doing (incremental improvement like clockwork) is long past being fluke or coincidence. I think he might be really smart and that’s a helluva an advantage.
  7. Does he have a chance at the opening night roster this fall? I have him in the No.9-No.11 area with Ryan Stanton and Mark Fayne. With Andrej Sekera hurt for the first portion of the season, one of those men is No. 8 and that’s going to be a battle.
  8. Does he have a real chance to eventually make the NHL as a regular? Years ago, Bill James wrote this amazing passage about never betting against a player who gets hurt in off-season training. I think Simpson is a great bet because of the distance traveled from draft day, and because of it will adopt that line of thinking from James. Why bet against a guy hellbent on a goal? God didn’t gift Dillon Simpson with great speed or vision, but he didn’t leave the young man stranded, either.
  9. What makes him attractive for this roster? The Oilers just paid $4 million times four years for steady play, perhaps the next guy on the chain will come at a lower price. Perhaps that player is Dillon Simpson.
  10. What is a reasonable timeline for full time NHL duty? He is now waivers eligible, so this season will be the first time Edmonton sends him down with the risk of losing the player. You never know, but I think he’ll clear.
  11. What will his role be in Bakersfield? Top 4D minutes and maybe a mentor role for someone like Caleb Jones or Ethan Bear. All of his coaches talk about how well he manages the game, and how many chores he adds just by being the obvious choice. I imagine he’ll be that player for some rookie in California.
  12. What one thing will get him to the NHL? His consistency.
  13. What will keep him from getting an NHL look? He lacks a dominant physical skill and doesn’t have that one thing that allows him to separate from the crowd.
  14. How many players can he reasonably be expected to pass in one winter? He is in the range with Stanton, Fayne and Lowe now, and would have to push Eric Gryba and Yohann Auvitu in order to get all the way to the NHL roster with everyone healthy. Seems like a long trip but he’s accomplished a lot. We’ll see.
  15. What one thing would McLellan value in a recall? Speed and the ability to stand up at the blue line, while being mobile enough to race back and win the battle at the end boards. That’s the reason Mark Fayne is in the minors and Kris Russell has a four-year deal, in my opinion. I believe Simpson can make that play.
  16. Why this song? I like it because it’s about not spinning infinity, it’s about demanding more, from life and yourself. I think it’s a perfect song for Dillon Simpson.

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25 Responses to "RE 17-18 DILLON SIMPSON: THE PRETENDER"

  1. OriginalPouzar says:

    I look forward to Dillon playing a prominent role in Bakersfield – he should be a nice mentor for the young kids that are turning pro and provide some good cover

    The fact that he can play either side is certainly helpful although, given he is a tweener, I would prefer him to be on his natural side when playing in the NHL – lets put him in the best opportunity to succeed when playing at the highest level.

    I am confident that he will play some NHL games again this year and am fully comfortable with him on the 3rd pairing. The issue that presents itself in this case is the possibility of having both our 3rd pairing d-men (Benning/Nurse) in the top 4 if the injuries are to the top 4.

  2. OriginalPouzar says:

    Is Auvitu the clear #8 going in to camp ahead of the Simpson/Stanton/Fayne cluster?

    I’m cheering for Auvitu as I would like to have his puck moving ability on the roster but my fear with Auvitu making the team and potentially the lineup is its potential to move Russell back to the right side.

    I want Russell on the left side if he’s playing 2nd pairing. If necessary, I can probably get on board with him moving to the right side if he’s playing 3rd pairing but we know the coach trusts him and will be giving him top 4 ES minutes assuming his season isn’t a regression from last year.

  3. Lowetide says:

    My guess for opening night is:

    Klefbom-Larsson
    Russell-Benning
    Nurse-Gryba

    With Auvitu in the pressbox. I also think McLellan may keep 8d to start the year.

  4. Bag of Pucks says:

    Let’s go down the rabbit hole for a minute and accept the premise that the San Jose Sharks would be 3 time Cup winners by now if not for the incompetency of Todd MacLellan.

    If that’s the case and Todd is simply an extremely capable regular season coach that can’t figure out how to properly prep his teams for playoff wins, then perhaps this is where having folks like Lowe, Gretzky and MacTavish is a benefit? Say what you will about the OBC, I bet they have a trick or three for what’s needed to keep a team focused but loose in the must win games.

    I think the more likely scenario is the team will win the big games because of players like McDavid, Talbot and Larsson meeting the challenge. At that time, the rhetoric will change to what a great coach MacLellan is and the choke tab will disappear.

    It’s interesting to note that much the same thing was said about Quennenville in St Louis. Great regular season coach whose teams choked in the playoffs. Did he suddenly become a better coach in Chicago or was it simply better personnel that took him over the top? I tend to lean to the latter as the more likely explanation.

  5. defmn says:

    Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed this post. We all love the stars but the game is what it is because of the love and passion for it that so many guys like Simpson have for it.

    Not gifted success but keep at it because they really can’t imagine what life would be like if they didn’t play.

    Thanks.

  6. Lowetide says:

    defmn:
    Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed this post. We all love the stars but the game is what it is because of the love and passion for it that so many guys like Simpson have for it.

    Not gifted success but keep at it because they really can’t imagine what life would be like if they didn’t play.

    Thanks.

    Thanks! Appreciate the kind words.

  7. OriginalPouzar says:

    Lowetide:
    My guess for opening night is:

    Klefbom-Larsson
    Russell-Benning
    Nurse-Gryba

    With Auvitu in the pressbox. I also think McLellan may keep 8d to start the year.

    I would agree with this.

    We know the coach will be keeping the 1st pairing together – that’s his preference and he’ll break camp that way until/unless the 2nd/3rd pairing aren’t working.

    Its great to have Russell on his left side where he can move the puck a bit better – I love me some Matty Benning but I don’t want him spending too much time in his own zone (as Russell pairings are apt to do) – it sure would be a boon moving forward if Benning could grab 2RD and never look back.

    Auvitu will see some playing time as they won’t want Grybs playing every game – it may look like this:

    Klef/Larrson
    Auvitu/Russell
    Nurse/Benning

    I know Auvitu can play the right but lets put him on his natural side to give him the opportunity to succeed – with that said, that second pairing scares me.

  8. jp says:

    LT, just read your Rememeberle piece at ON.

    Well done, and thanks for leaving us with the memory of Eberle’s first goal. That was a wonderful moment and unbelievable goal.

  9. Kinger_Oil.redux says:

    – Great post LT! I can’t reconcile this song choice (one of the Foo’s best), with Simpson (not one of the top-35 Oilers) That’s all I got!

  10. treevojo says:

    Bag of Pucks:
    Let’s go down the rabbit hole for a minute and accept the premise that the San Jose Sharks would be 3 time Cup winners by now if not for the incompetency of Todd MacLellan.

    If that’s the case and Todd is simply an extremely capable regular season coach that can’t figure out how to properly prep his teams for playoff wins, then perhaps this is where having folks like Lowe, Gretzky and MacTavish is a benefit? Say what you will about the OBC, I bet they have a trick or three for what’s needed to keep a team focused but loose in the must win games.

    I think the more likely scenario is the team will win the big games because of players like McDavid, Talbot and Larsson meeting the challenge. At that time, the rhetoric will change to what a great coach MacLellan is and the choke tab will disappear.

    It’s interesting to note that much the same thing was said about Quennenville in St Louis. Great regular season coach whose teams choked in the playoffs. Did he suddenly become a better coach in Chicago or was it simply better personnel that took him over the top? I tend to lean to the latter as the more likely explanation.

    Or sutter or Arbour.

    “One” has to recognize that it is the genius of the coach or GM that pushes these teams into greatness.

    The players are just pawns in this game of chess.

  11. dustrock says:

    I like Simpson and the work ethic is there, but man if you can’t hit Reinhart levels of production doesn’t look promising.

  12. VOR says:

    I am going to try again. Hockey is a team game. The coach is an important part of the team. The GM is an important part of the team. But they are just parts. The team wins or the team loses. Individuals (even great players or legendary coaches) are part of a team and their success vis a vis a winning record is a consequence of the team they are embedded in (and external factors like luck).

    You can’t give a coach, say John Tortorella, all the credit for a Stanley Cup victory. You certainly can’t give it all to the team Captain, Dave Andreychuk. Or for that matter to Brad Richards, Martin St. Louis, Freddie Modin, Dan Boyle, or Nikolai Khabibulin. They did it together! I don’t know why it seems hard for people to accept that in hockey as in many things Aristotle hit the nail on the head when he said, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

  13. treevojo says:

    VOR:
    I am going to try again. Hockey is a team game. The coach is an important part of the team. The GM is an important part of the team. But they are just parts. Theteam wins or the team loses. Individuals (even great players or legendary coaches) are part of a team and their success vis a vis a winning record is a consequence of the team they are embedded in (and external factors like luck).

    You can’t give a coach, say John Tortorella, all the credit for a Stanley Cup victory. You certainly can’t give it all to the team Captain, Dave Andreychuk. Or for that matter to Brad Richards, Martin St. Louis, Freddie Modin, Dan Boyle, or Nikolai Khabibulin. They did it together! I don’t know why it seems hard for people to accept that in hockey as in many things Aristotle hit the nail on the head when he said, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

    I think most recognize this as true.

    But “one” or two will make black or white statements and vehemently defend them till the end of time.

    It is what makes this place so great.

  14. Georges says:

    What does a coach do? What credit and blame does a coach deserve? Is it possible the answer is somewhere between 0 and 100%?

  15. Ryan says:

    jp:
    LT, just read your Rememeberle piece at ON.

    Well done, and thanks for leaving us with the memory of Eberle’s first goal. That was a wonderful moment and unbelievable goal.

    I found the piece depressing in regards to the erosion aspect. Eberle’s only 27.

    His offense peaked six seasons ago.

    Oh, if the hockeydb website is shut down for any reason at all, that’s the last straw and I’m calling it quits.

  16. Georges says:

    Bag of Pucks:
    Let’s go down the rabbit hole for a minute and accept the premise that the San Jose Sharks would be 3 time Cup winners by now if not for the incompetency of Todd MacLellan.

    If that’s the case and Todd is simply an extremely capable regular season coach that can’t figure out how to properly prep his teams for playoff wins, then perhaps this is where having folks like Lowe, Gretzky and MacTavish is a benefit? Say what you will about the OBC, I bet they have a trick or three for what’s needed to keep a team focused but loose in the must win games.

    I think the more likely scenario is the team will win the big games because of players like McDavid, Talbot and Larsson meeting the challenge. At that time, the rhetoric will change to what a great coach MacLellan is and the choke tab will disappear.

    It’s interesting to note that much the same thing was said about Quennenville in St Louis. Great regular season coach whose teams choked in the playoffs. Did he suddenly become a better coach in Chicago or was it simply better personnel that took him over the top? I tend to lean to the latter as the more likely explanation.

    3 time Cup winners? How about we settle for 1 time Cup Finalist? Was TMac coaching overachieving, talent-poor teams while he was with SJS? SJS, under TMac, was regularly finishing at the top of the WC.

    Coaches make an enormous number of decisions that impact the on-ice performance of their teams. Who plays? Who plays with whom? Where and when do they play? How long do they play? How do they play together? etc., etc. The performance of the team is a function of team talent, luck, and… maybe coaching? So, if we observe performance that isn’t in line with expectations (expectations set by strong regular season performance), we can speculate on all 3 of those factors, can’t we? Or is it always just luck?

    TMac did remarkably well getting the Oilers out of the wilderness. He deserves a lot of credit for getting the team to play with structure and commitment. But that was last year. This year, he’s coaching a team that has the second best odds of winning the Cup, according to the bookies. Unfamiliar expectations for the fan base, familiar expectations for TMac.

    Edit: Quenneville? He didn’t find the promised land until he was with his 3rd team. I really, really hope that’s not going to be TMac’s trajectory as well.

  17. VOR says:

    Coaching in the NHL is a daunting task.

    Consider some simple numbers.

    Coaches who have coached more than 500 games: 66
    Coaches who have coached more than 500 games and managed a .500 winning record or better: 53
    Coaches who have coached more than 50 playoff games: 58
    Coaches who have coached 50 or more playoff games and managed a .500 winning record: 33
    Coaches with 500 regular season games and 50 playoff games and who are .500 winning in both: 28
    Coaches with 500 regular season games and 50 playoff games who are .600 in both: 3

    Toe Blake, Scotty Bowman, and Glen Sather.

    Only active coach in the .600 club in both regular season and playoffs: Mike Sullivan.

    It is really hard to miss the thing all four guys have in common. A lot of years spent coaching generational talents.

    It isn’t inconceivable that Todd McLellan will join their ranks. He is already one of 11 coaches who has coached more than 500 regular season NHL games who has over a .600 winning % (.612 – 7th all time among coaches with 500 games coached). On the other hand his winning % in the playoffs is a lowly .493. This is 35th all time among coaches with more than 50 games of playoff hockey coaching experience.

    In other words based on his coaching record you’d have to say Todd McLellan is well on his way to the Hall of Fame. That would be true with or without Connor McDavid but each year of McDavid is likely to move Todd McLellan that much closer to the highest regular season winning record of any coach, ever. But we are all going to judge him by the wins in the playoffs and he obviously has to do better than 35th all time.

  18. Evilas says:

    Ryan,

    Why would you do that?

    http://www.eliteprospects.com

  19. Johnny Stomper says:

    I know this is a bit off topic but in response to something the Original Pouzar said. I’m fine if Nurse moves up into top 4 status and think he is going to have a break out season. He’s still underrated by a lot of the fan base. So many people want to trade him, I think that would come back to haunt us just like Chara haunted the Ottawa fan base. People talk about missing Pronger and wanting to get Chara but I think we have that player on our roster who has that kind of pedigree. At least he has that edge and we’ve seen that extra gear that no other dmen on our roster have. Can’t wait to see his progress. I think he grabs that 2D pairing spot and doesn’t look back. I believe Chiarelli and TMac see it that way too.
    Lets go Nurse!

  20. OriginalPouzar says:

    I am highly confident that Nurse will be at least a solid 2nd pairing d-man in the league.

    Obviously there will be eye-rolls when a comparison to Pronger is brought up but I am on board with what you are saying. Of course, Nurse will not be Pronger but the skill-set and style of play does remind me of Pronger.

    Lets not forget, it also took Pronger a few years to get his feet under him in this league.

    Darnell’s raw skills, including his skating, combined with his heart should be a boon for this team for the next decade.

    He may never have the offence to be an “all-tools first pairing d-man” but I can’t imagine him not having a top-four career.

    This player is still on his ELC – d-men take years – Nurse is progressing just fine.

    Can’t wait to see how good he will be in 2-3 years.

  21. jp says:

    Ryan: I found the piece depressing in regards to the erosion aspect. Eberle’s only 27.

    His offense peaked six seasons ago.

    Oh, if the hockeydb website is shut down for any reason at all, that’s the last straw and I’m calling it quits.

    I feel like that erosion is overstated personally. He had his career year early, but has been between 2.31 and 1.75 each year since. Yes the 5X5 number has dropped incrementally each year, but it’s almost in the noise. I’m not at all convinced it’s going to continue (though obviously it could).

  22. russ99 says:

    In the long run, I think we’re going to see it was a mistake keeping Simpson and letting Oesterle go.

    To the Auvitu backers – do some research. There’s a reason the Devils let him go. He was a major liability in the Devils’ end last year, and that’s in a highly-defensive focused system.

    I hope he does well but let’s not make Talbot’s life harder for a few good passes out of the zone.

  23. frjohnk says:

    Pronger after draft + 4 seasons
    281 games 28 goals 76 assists 104 points

    Nurse after draft + 4 seasons
    115 games 8 goals 13 assists 21 points

    If we are honestly looking for a comparable to Nurse ( size, skating, nastiness, similar offense, dealt with injuries as a young player)

    Erik Gudbranson draft + 4 seasons
    169 games 5 goals 16 assists 21 points

    Gudbranson is a good 4/5 Dman, I think Nurse passes him. Pronger was playing top pairing fairly soon in the league and entered the “elite” category not much later. Bringing up Pronger as a comparable for Nurse will just end up in disappointment. Gudbranson is a good comparable for Nurse.

  24. Evilas says:

    russ99,

    The reason Auvitu struggled in Jersey is due to an extremely demanding/risk averse coach, combined with his first season in North America (he didn’t know anyone in the organization and had never even been to North America before) and of course the restrictive system he had to play within and the coaches’ preference to stick with “his guys”.

    Auvitu was easily their best Dman in camp/pre-season, but he was still kept on an extremely short leash. That he was able to put up the numbers he did on the team that he did is incredible. He will most likely play between 20-30 games this season, but he has real potential on this roster to have a significant positive impact, especially on the PP.

    This guy is pretty incredible if you know his story and I would not bet against him. In fact I am willing to bet you a “Woodguy” that he has a superior season to Oesterle (using Puck IQ metrics as the yardstick). The caveat being that both players have to play in a minimum of 20 games to measure. Or if you prefer we could use GP and also figure in healthy scratches.

    When all is said and done I think they will play in a similar number of regular season games. This bet would not include playoffs or preseason games, of course.

    What do you say?

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