We don’t know the day or the time, but there is anticipation across the land. Edmonton will have a new general manager soon, and once again hope (a dangerous thing) will find fertile ground. It is the nature of the nation to be hopeful, all of the truly grumbly bears have drifted away to other challenges. That’s neither to be mourned nor celebrated, it is nature finding its way.
I have often said Oilers fans have the faith of a child. It pisses people off royally, although it’s meant as a compliment. The Al Gore mocks the ability of the heart to heal and to love again, but the alternative is a horrible way to live. Oilers fans are the best of the lot, the top drawer, the pick of the litter. May the hockey Gods gift them with a manager equal to the size of the collective heart of the nation.
There is a lot of healing to do, and we don’t know if this next man is A boss or THE Boss. We’ll find out in due time. For now, a more critical eye on all transactions, certainly more critical than the joyful first chapter of the last admin, is the play here.
The Athletic Edmonton features a fabulous cluster of stories (some linked below, some on the site). Great perspective from a ridiculous group of writers and analysts. Proud to be part of the group.INSANE NEW OFFER IS HERE!
- New Lowetide: ‘I see something special’: Are Oilers prepared to make Caleb Jones a fixture on the roster next season?
- New Jonathan Willis: Gritty comeback performance sends Edmonton’s farm team to the second round of the AHL playoffs.
- New Lowetide: Dylan Cozens might be ideal fit for Oilers at No. 8 overall in the 2019 draft
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: ‘Hard to please, but easy to work for’: How Sean Burke’s philosophy as a GM would benefit the Oilers.
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: A dogged realist, Kelly McCrimmon’s resume makes him an attractive candidate for the Oilers GM job
- New Lowetide: Is this the season the Oilers take the plunge and draft a USHL player in the first round?
- Jonathan Willis: Top Oilers prospect Evan Bouchard stars in his first AHL game as Condors dominate.
- Lowetide: Adam Larsson’s importance to the Oilers and why trading him is a bad idea.
- Lowetide: Tyler Benson’s comparables offer Oilers fans plenty of hope for the future.
- Lowetide: Making the call on the Oilers’ RFAs with a new general manager on the way.
- Lowetide: Red Wings front office shuffle could impact Oilers’ future.
- Jonathan Willis: Potential coaching candidates and why the Oilers don’t need to rush the GM search to get one
- Lowetide: What would Glen Sather do with these Oilers?
- Jonathan Willis: Some creative solutions to address the Oilers’ goalie problem
- Lowetide: The Milan Lucic saga rolls into Year 4 for Oilers with no easy answers
- Jonathan Willis: Who stays and who goes? An early projection of which players will remain on the Oilers’ roster in 2019-20
- Lowetide: How high can these Condors fly?
- Lowetide: The Oilers possible summer trade pieces, and which longtime players might be saying goodbye.
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Ten prospects likely to be available when the Oilers make their first-round pick.
50-MAN FOR THE NEW MAN
Edmonton’s next general manager will arrive to a cool reception and recent snowfall. That will be counter to the love-in that waited for Peter Chiarelli in 2015, Oilers fans basking in the glow of the McDavid lottery.
This time, fans are spitting bullets and will probably be unhappy with the winning candidate for GM no matter what he says at his first avail. I would suggest he avoids words like “heavy” and phrases like “you can’t be afraid to make trades” because it sure as hell didn’t work for the last guy.
I would recommend distributing the current 50-man list, and then spending about 10 minutes saying ‘would you look at that?’ but people might tire of the routine. Sooner or later, he will have to say something like “this team missed the playoffs last season and the season before; there will be changes” and that will set the foundation for the summer.
This is the current 50-man list. There are 43 names here, with nine RFA’s who need contracts or to be sent away. I’m estimating the list on draft week to be about 40, with Ryan McLeod added, and Norell, Rattie, Larkin and Rieder cast away. Ryan Mantha’s contract situation may also become clearer. We’ll see.
For fans, and for media, I think a more careful approach to the next GM is wise. I don’t want to know the fan who wasn’t on cloud nine after the McDavid lottery, and PC’s hiring came right on the heels (early words here). Most fans raised an eyebrow on the pricetag of Griffin Reinhart (rightly), it was too much to pay no matter how Reinhart turned out.
I said this on the night of the Reinhart trade: “In terms of value, Peter Chiarelli gave up too much. Reinhart—if everything works out—projects as a second-pairing guy and the price paid was dear, too dear.”
More from that night: “For me, even after today’s unusual trade, grabbing any of these (second round) players would be a win for the first two rounds. Edmonton can’t count on any being available with their next pick, and that’s a major issue in dealing No. 16 and No. 33 for Reinhart. I’ll post more on Reinhart later but want to drive home that point—two bullets here—and the sheer number of quality players who are no longer available. Peter Chiarelli clearly felt defense was important but that was a dear price.”
I usually list a few possible options and needs here, but wanted to express a few opinions and ideas. So, here goes. First, I wouldn’t spend any assets on bringing in a pricey RH defenseman with so many attractive options on the way. Edmonton may have to suffer through another year of wobble, but if the scouts have been doing the job then Evan Bouchard should be able to slide in on the third pairing in the next 12 months. He’ll also help the power play.
I don’t think the RH depth chart (Larsson, Russell, Benning) from last season is good enough to return. I do think a player like Bouchard is close enough to the NHL (Oscar Klefbom spent 57 games in the AHL) for the organization to consider ‘puck mover who can goose the power play’ issue on the way to being solved. Joel Persson may also help.
What should the new general manager do? I think the play is to trade Kris Russell or Andrej Sekera. Let’s say the Oilers can offload Russell (who has value but is challenged playing off side second pair) while also acquiring Mark Pysyk from the Florida Panthers. Here are their Puck IQ numbers 5-on-5 against elites:
- Russell: 396 minutes (31 percent); 42.40 DFF; -1.60 DFF%RC
- Pysyk: 348 minutes (30.8 percent); 45.10 DFF; -2.90 DFF%RC
Pysyk has two advantages in my opinion: Lower cap (over $1 million in savings over Russell) and he’s a RH blue.
So, my idea is to go low key on blue, and start next season with Klefbom-Larsson; Nurse-Pysyk, Sekera-Benning. No. 7D can be Manning, with Caleb Jones ready to go when injuries hit (and injuries always hit defensemen). If Russell can be traded, but Pysyk can’t be acquired, then Jones makes the roster and one of Benning, Sekera, Jones, Lagesson, Bear, Bouchard or Persson wins the RH job on the second pair.
I’d do the same thing with goaltender, adding only Brian Elliott in free agency. Slow playing summer: For the new general manager, it’s the right thing to do on defense and in goal. We’ll talk forwards tomorrow.
Burke’s name came up late last week again, he must have interviewed well. I don’t have a horse in this race, Burke appears to be the most ‘outsider’ of the group. That isn’t a bad thing.
I’ll be writing about Jesse this week at The Athletic, it’s my opinion the new general manager should move heaven and earth to keep him around. JP had surgery, so his 2019-20 season may not be complete. That gives the organization an opportunity to bring him along at pace. I have no idea how much his surgery will improve performance but there’s too much talent here to send away at 10 cents on the dollar.
If Caufield is available at No. 8, Oilers would have to consider him. That said, there is going to be a difficult choice if I’m reading the tea leaves correctly. If I were to make a mock draft today, it might look like this:
- New Jersey: Jack Hughes
- NY Rangers: Kaapo Kakko
- Chicago: Bowen Byram
- Colorado: Alex Turcotte
- Los Angeles: Kirby Dach
- Detroit: Trevor Zegras
- Buffalo: Cole Caufield
That would leave Edmonton to choose between Dylan Cozens, Matthew Boldy, Athur Kaliyev, Peyton Krebs and Vasili Podkolzin. My guess is they take Cozens. I don’t think the Oilers would take Kaliyev, but it’s likely they are more than curious about Caufield. If he falls, there’s a good chance they take him. Why do I feel this way? Kailer Yamamoto. They want skill.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, we talk all the sports after a very busy weekend. Andy McNamara from TSN4Downs joins us to talk NFL draft, and former Oilers defenseman Doug Hicks drops in to chat Hockey Helps the Homeless. At 11, Jason Gregor pops in to chat Oil Kings, new Oilers general manager and NHL playoffs.