On the day he signed a contract with the Edmonton Oilers, Andrej Sekera stood stone alone on the depth chart. Despite (accurate) claims by the general manager that the new hire was an ideal second-pairing veteran, no soul alive could give you two names on the Edmonton depth chart who could play ahead of him. Losing Andrej Sekera was a bitter pill last spring, absolute disaster. Oilers win that series if he doesn’t get hurt, I believe that to be true.
Veteran defensemen like Sekera are valuable all year but in the playoffs, especially when the refs “put the whistle away” you need calm feet, calm brain, skill. Sekera is all that. At the time of the injury, estimates had 6-9 months, he’s coming back at seven months plus a few days. We don’t know how close to ‘True Sekera’ he’ll be tonight, but we will have a starting point.
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- New Lowetide: Year-end taking stock
- Lowetide: Should the Oilers trade their 2018 first-round pick?
- Jonathan Willis: Rejuvenated Oilers set sights on post-season.
- Corey Pronman: Team Canada WJ preview.
- Lowetide: Connor McDavid: The Athletic’s Person of the Year!
- Lowetide: Anton Slepyshev
LONG DECEMBER, YEAR OVER YEAR
- December 2015: 6-2-0, goal differential +1 (12 points)
- December 2016: 3-2-3, goal differential 0 (9 points)
- December 2017: 5-3-0, goal differential +7 (10 points)
G9 December in 2015 was a 5-1 loss to Colorado, the Avs taking a too-many-men penalty 54 seconds in and then Blake Comeau scored 18 seconds later. Uh, yeah. Last year it was a 3-2 win over Tampa Bay in a shootout. Nice goal differential and a winning record. Heady days.
AFTER 35, YEAR OVER YEAR
- Oilers 15-16: 14-18-2, goal differential -19 (30 points)
- Oilers 16-17: 17-12-5, goal differential +8 (39 points)
- Oilers 17-18: 15-17-2, goal differential -8 (32 points)
G35 two years ago was a 3-1 win over Winnipeg (Teddy Purcell, baby!), last year it was a 3-2 win over Arizona (GWG Matt Hendricks!). A win tonight, and another Saturday, and the Oilers are at fake .500 for the first time in what seems like forever (G2).
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM DECEMBER
- On the road to: Calgary (Expected: 0-0-1) (Actual: 1-0-0)
- At home to: Philadelphia (Expected 1-0-0) (Actual: 0-1-0)
- On the road to: Montreal, Toronto, Columbus (Expected 1-2-0) (Actual 2-1-0)
- At home to: Nashville (Expected 0-1-0) (Actual 0-1-0)
- On the road to: Minnesota (Expected 1-0-0) (Actual 1-0-0)
- At home to: San Jose, St. Louis, Montreal (Expected 1-1-1) (Actual 1-0-0)
- On the road to: Winnipeg (Expected 0-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Chicago, Winnipeg (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- Overall expected result: 5-6-2, 12 points in 13 games
- Current results: 5-3-0, 10 points in eight games
When I estimated this month, the Oilers were a very different team. I have this as a loss tonight, with the overtime loss on Saturday. Of course, the team you’ll see tonight at Rogers is a better group than the one I was looking at end of November. Big game.
Scored a goal last night in a tuneup game, check out a terrific article on him from Michael Traikos in the National Post.
I’m absolutely certain most of you value Corsi and Corsi Rel less than I do, so you may want to skip this paragraph. I use CorsiRel when looking at large sets of defensemen in season, it’s a great indicator of players who are having success relative to team. It doesn’t tell us everything but it’s a valuable tool. Consider Darnell Nurse and his career rel’s, where he has ranked among regulars since his rookie season:
- 2015-16: -5.35 (No. 152 among regulars (source)
- 2016-17: +0.84 (No. 69 among regulars (source)
- 2017-18: +5.42 (No. 14 among regulars) (source)
In his rookie season, Nurse ranked No. 152 out of 157 defensemen, ahead of only Luke Schenn, Mark Stuart, Matt Hunwick, Matt Carle and Dan Girardi. Nice progression in year two and now in his third NHL season Nurse is showing some signs of being a defender who can play tough minutes, big minutes, and outperform his teammates rel.
In the spring 2015, Peter Chiarelli arrived as general manager. It’s uncertain how much impact he had on that first draft (Caleb Jones was a departure), but traditionally we give credit to the sitting GM for draft results. It is vital for the Oilers to get two or three useful players out of the draft moving forward. It’s a team’s life blood. The reason for franchise downfalls, every time, has been a fallow period of drafting. You could look it up. Here are the results (so far) of each draft since 2015, and remember we’re looking for two NHL players per draft.
- Connor McDavid—161 NHL games. Per 82gp: 30-66-96
- Caleb Jones—28 AHL games, tough start, flourishing in recent weeks. NHLE: 12.
- Ethan Bear—10 AHL games, strong play with one concussion interrupting. NHLE: 23
- John Marino—Playing well at Harvard, projects as a bonafide NHL prospect.
- Miroslav Svoboda—No longer in organization, killing it in highest Czech league (.929).
- Ziyat Paigin—No longer in organization.
- Jesse Puljujarvi—45 NHL games. Per 82gp: 13-16-29
- Tyler Benson—Healthy and playing well final season junior. NHLE: 35.
- Markus Niemelainen—Struggling in the Sm-Liiga. NHLE: 2.
- Matt Cairns—Has played one NCAA game.
- Filip Berglund—Flourishing (injury aside) in the SHL. NHLE: 15
- Dylan Wells—Uneven junior season, SP is .897.
- Graham McPhee—Step forward in year two NCAA. NHLE: 17
- Aapeli Rasanen—Running in lock step with McPhee. NHLE: 17
- Vincent Desharnais—Continues quiet college career. NHLE:6
- Kailer Yamamoto—9 NHL games, currently in junior. Terrific skill set. Per 82gp: 0-27-27
- Stuart Skinner—Slow start, recovering. Now at .900 SP.
- Dmitri Samorukov—Impressing in world’s best junior league. NHLE: 12
- Ostap Safin—Impressive big forward posting strong QMJHL debut. NHLE: 20.
- Kirill Maksimov—Scoring winger looking like draft steal in early days. NHLE: 16-12-28.
- Skyler Brind’Amour—Playing well, but not dominating, BCHL.
- Phil Kemp—Surprising college numbers, good defender. NHLE: 7
Oilers need at least two players a year, the first-round picks look like they may all cash. Among the rest, I’d list Caleb Jones, Ethan Bear, Tyler Benson, Filip Berglund, Graham McPhee, Aapeli Rasanen, Dmitri Samorukov, Ostap Safin, Kirill Maksimov and Phil Kemp as having good arrows. History teaches us most of those names will fall away. Are there three men in that group who will make the grade? There are some good resumes in that group, with consistency and injury being the big worries. We wait.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A fun morning as we get set for a massive Oilers game. All starts at 10, TSN1260. Scheduled to appear:
- Bruce McCurdy, Cult of Hockey. Where to play Sekera, is Caggiula progressing? And why is Peter Chiarelli making so much room on the 50-man list?
- Rob Vollman, NHL.com and ESPN. Is Mike Hoffman a comparable for Jordan Eberle? Plus Nashville’s blue.
- Frank Seravalli, TSN. We’ll drill down on the Oilers pre-freeze roster moves and what they might mean.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!