I rarely do these, but we’re on the edge of a new reality and wanted to post my notes as both a chronicle of thoughts and perhaps the start of a conversation. I will tell you that Ken Holland is acting like a mature manager but we don’t really know one damned thing. We can mutter amongst ourselves and project greatness from this day forward, but if Holland backward travels with the roster he currently owns this could be more than a mountain.
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 OFFER IS HERE!
- New Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Q&A with Ken Holland: On the draft, buyouts, free agency and how to have a successful offseason
- New Lowetide: Trading for Loui Eriksson: What makes sense for the Oilers?
- New Jonathan Willis: Differing needs of Oilers, Jets could create a trade fit
- New Lowetide: How will Ken Holland build around Connor McDavid?
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: The top five players the Oilers could lose in the expansion draft
- Jonathan Willis: What a trade involving Edmonton’s No. 8 pick might look like given Ken Holland’s history
- Lowetide: Hard Target Search: Finding the Oilers a centre who can penalty kill, help shape a useful third line, and serve in a mentor role
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: How a third-line grinder launched the star-filled Oilers to their first Stanley Cup and a hockey dynasty.
- Lowetide: Is Zack Kassian the answer for the McDavid-Draisaitl line?
- Lowetide: NHL Combine brings Oilers dual problems into focus for Ken Holland
- Lowetide: Analyzing the Oilers roster to see which players fit Dave Tippett’s ‘aggressive, fast team’ approach
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Dave Tippett’s coaching philosophy, how he relays information to his players and why information is king
- Lowetide: What will Ken Holland see in Evan Bouchard?
- Lowetide: Does Oilers’ signing of Joakim Nygard signal a measured approach to summer 2019?
- Lowetide: Dave Tippett’s roster deployment in Arizona and what it might mean for the Oilers
- Jonathan Willis: Why Ken Holland’s worst years in Detroit tell us the most about how he’ll fare in Edmonton
- Jonathan Willis: Three offseason scenarios and how each one would affect the Oilers salary cap
- Lowetide: Examining the Oilers’ goaltending options in free agency.
- Jonathan Willis: Every Oilers AHL prospect, rated by how close they are to the NHL
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Protector, supporter, confidant: Connor McDavid’s mom, Kelly, is his off-ice rock through good times and bad
- Lowetide: An offseason plan for Ken Holland to remodel the Oilers roster.
One of Ken Holland’s first words about the roster upon arrival pertained to getting another goalie, a 1A type to play with Koskinen. That’s the play here, I’ve named Brian Elliott and it’s certain some concur and others have their own preferences. Get a solid NHL goalie for under $3 million.
On defense, I wouldn’t trade any of Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson or Darnell Nurse. I’ll go you one farther, I’d run Matt Benning as 2RHD at least early in the season. A third pair of Andrej Sekera and Joel Persson or Caleb Jones might flourish.
I’d stay away from short term 2RHD solutions. You have to assume Evan Bouchard is going to be good for an NHL role some time this coming season, and perhaps second pair by 2020 fall. No reason to spend heavily.
I also think there’s going to need to be some kind of cull in the next eight months among the blue. I would move Kris Russell, but would also consider moving William Lagesson or Ethan Bear at the deadline if Benning, Jones/Persson and Bouchard are working. Oilers finally have some depth, but this time next year Jones, Bear and Lagesson will be coming up on waiver eligibility.
Nurse offers a challenge for sure, his next contract is out there waiting and it won’t resemble Klefbom’s or Larsson’s. I know there’s a lot of voices saying trade the guy, but I don’t see the point until another defenseman steps up and proves he can play 23:59 (Klefbom), 23:49 (Nurse) and 21:37 (Larsson). Seeing Russell’s 20:26 walk is enough for one summer.
PERSONAL OPINION: EVAN BOUCHARD
One final note on defense: Evan Bouchard. You know, he only had 71 minutes at 5-on-5 for the Oilers before being sent out, but his possession numbers (Corsi and Corsi Rel) were positive (Rel: 8.67 via Natural Stat Trick and DFF Red: 3.40 via Puck IQ). Tyler Dellow’s excellent article (here) is one of several I’ve read on the subject that basically say (quoting Dellow now) “you can start to pull guys apart from a fairly young age and that a lot of guys who’d be regarded as the cream of the crop seemed to rise to the top from a fairly young age.” So, don’t trade for a 2RHD when you might have one coming through the system.
I don’t know much about him beyond he’s a puck mover who can skate, NHLE is 25. Elite Prospects says “great skating ability and passing skills. Has great vision and a good shot. Excels on the powerplay, but could use more physical strength.” He’s a Finn playing in Sweden, he could be something or he could be something else. No idea if the Oilers will sign him but this is interesting radar. Profile is here.
MORE PERSONAL OPINION
Building up the middle is an important piece of team building. The Oilers are flat out loaded at center. Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins represent a dream team of pivots, and one sweet day they’ll have six wingers who can keep up. Until then, I think the GM will need to have five centers on the roster for the moments (games, months, years) when the coach decides to run 97 and 29 together.
That means going out and acquiring a No. 3-4 center, and I think Jean-Gabriel Pageau would be ideal. The No. 4 slot might land with Colby Cave, Kyle Brodziak or even Cooper Marody, but Pageau can slide into the No. 3 center role and deliver. That’s an important addition this summer, far more important than a bridge to Bouchard on defense.
Left wing is going to have Leon Draisaitl, Milan Lucic, Joakim Nygard and Jujhar Khaira (is my guess) this coming season. I’d give Tyler Benson a chance in training camp and if he forced the issue, bring him north at the end of camp. I would also try to add an inexpensive option to this group, someone like Tyler Ennis or Brandon Pirri. If everyone works out, you can move Nygard to RW, Khaira to center or Lucic to the pressbox. Holland will want depth on left wing, I think adding Ennis/Pirri is the right thing to do.
Right wing has Zack Kassian, Sam Gagner and possibly Alex Chiasson. I’m not sure about Jesse Puljujarvi, so we’re going to put him aside for the time being. I think Brett Connolly or similar is needed, not for the 97 line but for Nuge. Need an NHL player who has enough skill and ability to win the puck and pass it. I don’t think Kailor Yamamoto should be counted on, at least at the start of the year.
This is my opinion. Is it good enough to make the playoffs? Don’t know. The team will be better on the PK, especially if the Lucic for Eriksson deal goes through. I’ve moved on several players, notably Kris Russell and Jesse Puljujarvi, imagining in my brain a bigger deal with Ottawa.
DNB INTERVIEW WITH KEN HOLLAND
All of the words above were written before 7 this morning my time. I’m not going to change a word (ordinarily I write in the evening, edit in the morning) because Daniel Nugent-Bowman dropped an amazing one-on-one with Ken Holland at The Athletic today. Link is here. An absolute monster.
Anselmi has an impressive resume, including work for MLSE and the Ottawa Senators. There was much speculation about Nicholson leaving, that should put things to rest.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
We’re off to a rocking start to the week, with strong guests, an Oilers media avail and a championship the whole nation can get behind. 10 this morning, TSN1260.
Alex Thomas, Oilers Rig and Boston Hockey Now. We’ll chat SCF, David Ortiz and Oilers summer.
Oilers media avail at 10:30, news about Nicholson and Anselmi.
Jason Gregor at 11, we’ll review Oilers press conference, talk SCF and NBA finals.
Brian Swane, Basketball Alberta and The Basketball Show. Raptors!
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!