Robert Nilsson began the 2009-10 NHL season as an offensive option for Pat Quinn’s first Edmonton Oilers team. On opening night, he had played in 192 NHL games, posting an average of 39 points per 82 games. By the spring, he found himself being bought out by the Oilers. He had played his last game in the NHL.
That 2009-10 Oilers season delivered a mortal (or near) blow to the NHL careers of Patrick O’Sullivan, Denis Grebeshkov, Marc Pouliot, Ethan Moreau, Sheldon Souray, Zack Stortini and Jeff Deslauriers while shortening many others. Some of those names found other NHL teams, but on the fringe of NHL rosters, as curios. Playing on a bad NHL team is a must to avoid, it can be a career killer. Fear is a great motivator. There’s half a season to go.
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- New Pierre Lebrun: LeBrun Notebook: Chiarelli under pressure to deliver in Edmonton.
- New Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Peter Chiarelli’s reasoning for acquiring Brandon Manning doesn’t add up
- New Lowetide: Oilers No. 9 prospect Winter 2018: Joel Persson.
- New Lowetide: Oilers acquire Brandon Manning in a Sunday shocker, and this ought to be interesting.
- New Lowetide: Oilers acquire Alexander Petrovic from Panthers, flushing Chris Wideman and a 2019 third-round pick in the trade.
- New Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Struggling Oilers counting on Kris Russell to revitalize depleted defence.
- New Minnia Feng: The head-scratching scenarios, cringe-worthy lines and questionable graphics in commercials featuring NHL players.
- Lowetide: In a ‘Hail Mary’ roster shuffle, Oilers recall Kailer Yamamoto, waive Valentin Zykov and place Alex Chiasson on IR.
- Lowetide: Oilers No. 8 prospect Winter 2018: Kirill Maksimov.
- Lowetide: Oilers No. 7 prospect Winter 2018: Caleb Jones.
- Lowetide: Oilers No. 6 Prospect winter 2018: Cooper Marody.
- Lowetide: Oilers No. 5 Prospect winter 2018: Ethan Bear.
- Lowetide: Oilers No. 4 Prospect winter 2018: Ryan McLeod.
- Lowetide: Oilers No. 3 Prospect winter 2018: Tyler Benson.
- Lowetide: Oilers No. 2 Prospect winter 2018: Kailer Yamamoto.
- Lowetide: Oilers No. 1 Prospect winter 2018: Evan Bouchard.
OILERS AFTER 40
- Oilers in 2015: 16-21-3, 35 points; goal differential -22
- Oilers in 2016: 20-13-7, 47 points; goal differential +5
- Oilers in 2017: 17-20-3, 37 points; goal differential -17
- Oilers in 2018: 18-18-3, 39 points; goal differential -7
It’s easier to surround this year’s team when looking at the three previous seasons. Clearly better than the two also-rans, while also being some distance from the playoff group. We’re at the midway point of the season now (basically) and the Oilers are nowhere near 45 points, let alone 50. The season is sliding away.
OILERS IN JANUARY
- Oilers in January 2016: 1-0-0, two points; goal differential 0
- Oilers in January 2017: 0-1-0, no points; goal differential -2
- Oilers in January 2018: 0-1-0, no points; goal differential -5
- Oilers in January 2019: 0-0-0, no points; goal differential nil
A win in 2016’s January opener followed by two losses in the following years. At this point, the Oilers just want to stop the bleeding. The club has a three-point lead on tonight’s opponent, and both teams have struggled in their most recent 10-game segments.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM JANUARY
- On the road to: Arizona, Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose (Expected 2-2-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Florida, Arizona, Buffalo (Expected 1-1-1) (Actual 0-0-0)
- On the road to: Vancouver (Expected 0-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Calgary, Carolina, Detroit (Expected 1-1-1) (Actual 0-0-0)
- Overall expected result: 4-5-2, 10 points in 11 games
- Current results: nil
At some point in the next two months, the Oilers will be either trading picks and prospects for immediate help or recalling Condors to have a look. I published Eric Rodgers forwards numbers here and the team has already recalled most of the top men (Jesse Puljujarvi, Cooper Marody, Kailer Yamamoto, Joe Gambardella) in the season’s first half.
Among the blue, Caleb Jones and Kevin Gravel are in the NHL now, Jones is looking like he’s going to be there for the next 15 years. I would guess Ethan Bear and William Lagesson are next to be recalled, but it’s also possible those names (and the ones above) could be used in a trade to shore things up. For instance, when Pierre Lebrun writes about Jake Muzzin of the Los Angeles Kings as a trade target (he has a year left after this one, $4 million AAV), does some combination of the second-round pick, Jesse Puljujarvi, Ethan Bear, Kailer Yamamoto get it done? Or are we talking about the first-round selection? Here are the forwards.
- Ken Hitchcock on Caleb Jones: “There’s something uncoachable and that’s calmness under fire. You’ve either got that or you don’t & he’s got it.”
I don’t recall anyone projecting Jones as having this kind of immediate impact (I ranked him beginning summer 2015: 17, 13, 7, 7, 4, 4, 8 (combined ranking at The Athletic) and then No. 7 this winter) but it’s clear he belongs.
That’s why you keep your powder dry and give your scouts a seat in each round of the draft. I believe this organization has improved at the draft table. Caleb Jones was chosen in 2015, two months after Chiarelli arrived. The scouting staff that hit the highway in the winter of 2014-15 uncovered him. I don’t think it’s wise to trade draft picks in a mad dash for the No. 8 playoff spot. Stay the course, make your solutions graduating AHL players who came through the system. Caleb Jones cap hit next year will be $815,000 a gigantic saving compared to Kris Russell or even Brandon Manning. Go back and look at the 2005-06 team the value deals (Hemsky, Horcoff, Pisani, Torres, Stoll, M-A Bergeron), mostly coming through the draft.
There is hope, you can see it in the numbers above (thanks Jay Woodcroft). What’s more, there is more talent coming next fall to Bakersfield. Here are the players I believe may be turning pro next year:
- Goal: Hayden Hawkey
- Left Defense: Dmitri Samorukov
- Right Defense: Evan Bouchard, Joel Persson, Filip Berglund, Phil Kemp
- Center: Ryan McLeod
- Left Winger: Kirill Maksimov
- Right Winger: Ostap Safin
The team might have to cash a defensive prospect for a forward who is turning pro, but the talent pushing up is substantial.
I believe the first round pick is in play, and that isn’t sound thinking. Why? It’s wrongheaded to devote valuable assets in order to make the final playoff position. This roster has major flaws, and further the team does need to invest playing time on youngsters to see how they shine.
Daryl Katz needs a playoff series, Peter Chiarelli needs to save his job. These aren’t good enough reasons to trade the first-round selection.
Let’s play a game of ‘what if?’ for a moment. What if the Oilers miss the playoffs and Peter Chiarelli loses his job? It will mean upheaval, a reset in many areas and could well mean the new GM trades Jesse Puljujarvi and other young assets in order to make the team his own. Common practice. The Oilers need specific things and they may not come available immediately, but the new general manager will be under less pressure to force things to happen (forcing a deal is a terrible negotiation strategy).
What if the Oilers miss the playoffs and Mr. Katz suffers losses in renewals? In one way, that’s a bitter pill. Oilers fans giving up their tickets won’t be doing it out of joy, but rather frustration. On the other hand, perhaps it will give Mr. Katz time to have quiet contemplation about his management team and why things continually work out this way.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT LUCIC?
My Grandpa had three fingers on his right hand, Pinky and the one next to it lost in a sawmill accident. Men from his generation had all kinds of ills we don’t have, my Dad had nerve damage from the war and terrible hearing also because of the war.
Grandpa handled it by never thinking of it. He just did what he had to, getting his grandkids to help when he couldn’t and using hooks to lift hay bales (I remember the woosh of that fracking hook flying by my skull when I helped him as a teenager).
Milan Lucic’s contract is set in stone, like those monuments at Yankee Stadium that used to be in play (seriously) 60 years ago. Each summer, the general manager needs to find the cap, subtract $6 million and then proceed with that number.
Suspect the new general manager will instruct his coach to play the 12 best forwards, and at that point Lucic won’t see the ice as often, possibly at all. Tyler Benson may take the job next fall, and become a value contract.
What Peter Chiarelli or his replacement can do is offload the excess. Buying out Ryan Spooner saves $2.667 million next season. Kris Russell has to give Edmonton a list of 10 teams he’ll agree to join via trade this summer. Andrej Sekera is injured, so trading him is more difficult but he needs to give the team a 15-team list this summer. Maybe he hits LTIR.
I’m not saying don’t worry about the Lucic deal, if a trade can be made then make it with extreme prejudice. Buying out his contract saves the club $2.375 million next season, less than Spooner’s buyout, and the payout reduces from there.
Lucic and his contract are like my Grandpa and his accident: Sucks, but you have to find a workaround.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
We’re back and the schedule holds for a long time now, Lowdown hits the air at 10 this morning, TSN1260. Scheduled to appear:
- Bruce McCurdy, Cult of Hockey at the Edmonton Journal. Bruce will introduce you to each weekend transaction. He’s going to be there awhile.
- Kris Abbott, OddsShark.com. We’ll chat about Bowl game results and what we can learn, and the NFL weekend ahead. Plus, Oilers.
- Jon Abbott, TSN1040 Vancouver. World Junior’s pbp man updates us on the state of the team.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter.