I mentioned on the Lowdown yesterday that if Ken Holland had signed Brett Connolly, along with his other moves, we could look back on his summer as a success. You may not agree, perhaps the first-round pick or the Alex Chiasson signing snapped the rope for you, maybe the Andrej Sekera buyout was too much by plenty.
I don’t know that this is a playoff team, but believe the organization is better situated for the opportunities ahead. Next summer? Deadline? August? Don’t know. The cloud of the Lucic contract, the unbuyoutable albatross, is down the road. Edmonton will have money next summer. Is that enough for fans this summer?
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, here’s an incredible Offer!
- New Jonathan Willis: Jesse Puljujarvi still has upside and the Oilers’ patient approach is the right one
- New Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Q&A: Dave Tippett on rounding out his coaching staff, fixing Oilers’ special teams and using Connor McDavid
- New Lowetide: Handicapping the Oilers’ young defencemen and their chances of replacing Andrej Sekera
- Lowetide: Is Kirill Maksimov progressing as the Edmonton Oilers’ next great hope for a true homegrown sniper?
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers ease pressure on crowded defensive pipeline by trading John Marino to the Penguins
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: What the 2021-22 Oilers might look like after their steady build toward contender status
- Lowetide: Joel Persson is ideally situated to win an opening night roster spot with the Oilers
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: What the 2019-20 Oilers might look like without trade missteps.
- Lowetide: Finding the best candidates for the final two spots on the Oilers skill lines in 2019-20.
- Jonathan Willis: Projecting the Oilers’ opening night lineup, line combinations and more.
- Lowetide: Does the James Neal acquisition impact Oilers’ prospects in 2019-20?
- Lowetide: Oilers’ acquisition of James Neal could add badly needed scoring to the top two lines.
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Ken Holland puts his stamp on the Oilers with first big move in Lucic-Neal trade
- Jonathan Willis: Ken Holland ends an ugly situation for the Oilers by trading Milan Lucic for James Neal
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Potential free-agent options for the Oilers in 2020
- Jonathan Willis: Which Oilers defencemen can make an outlet pass?
- Lowetide: Looking ahead to Oilers training camp: 35 players for 23 jobs
- Jonathan Willis: Josh Archibald won’t fix the Oilers’ biggest problems, but he’ll help with some key issues.
- Lowetide: Will the 2019-20 Bakersfield Condors be the Oilers’ best minor-league team ever?
- Lowetide: Oilers top 20 prospects summer 2019.
THE 50-MAN LIST INHERITED BY HOLLAND
Holland moved out seven players who either had contracts or were restricted. That number could climb to eight if the team deals Jesse Puljujarvi. The big exits were Andrej Sekera and Milan Lucic, and Tobias Rieder’s slot needed to be replaced with a bona fide winger.
THE 50-MAN LIST AFTER THE SUMMER SHAKEUP
Left wing has seen real turnover, with Lucic and Rieder out, and Neal plus Granlund in. I like Khaira and am curious about Nygard, while Benson is damned close and Gambardella has a puncher’s chance. That’s seven men for four (or five) spots. What would my depth chart look like? Draisaitl, Neal, Granlund, Khaira, Gambardella. Benson is in the AHL unless he tears it up in training camp, and he could, or if Khaira moves to center. How many goals does my RE suggest for these men? Last year’s total (66) is exceeded, but not by as much as one hopes.
Center is gorgeous at the top and violently ill at the bottom, with Ken Holland likely pondering a waiver claim early October. McDavid is the best player in the game, Nugent-Hopkins is a quality No. 2 center and at this point Gaetan Haas looks like the weakest No. 3 pivot in the league. Colby Cave and Kyle Brodziak round out the group, unless Cooper Marody can break through. How many goals does my RE suggest for these men? This year’s centers won’t match last year’s total (78).
Right wing didn’t get solved this summer, not in the same way it would have if Holland could have landed Brett Connolly. Now, that doesn’t mean the issue won’t get solved, but the Oilers will have to look beyond names like Zack Kassian, Alex Chiasson and Sam Gagner. I do like Josh Archibald, but would look to Tomas Jurco, Cooper Marody and possibly Kailer Yamamoto as solutions on the skill lines during 2019-20. Jesse Puljujarvi is still in photo, but is fading like that scene in Back to the Future. How many goals does my RE suggest for these men? Last year’s total (55) is in the range with this year’s projections.
Last year’s forwards scored 199, I’m projecting a slight increase from this group.
Left Defense gets a new man, maybe two. My RE has chosen three lefties, Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse and Caleb Jones opening night. It’s also true new coach Dave Tippett has suggested he would prefer Russell on the LH side. That will impact the depth chart. Brandon Manning, William Lagesson and Dmitri Samorukov could see time, and Keegan Lowe is also available. Last year, the LHD scored 18 goals. This year? Small increase.
Right defense has three men, including Adam Larsson, Joel Persson and Matt Benning (in that order). Evan Bouchard and Ethan Bear will also be pushing. Last year’s RH blue scored 12, this year’s estimate will be higher.
Last year’s defense scored 30 goals, expect an increase but nothing earth shattering. Overall the Oilers GF will increase, but the team will score below NHL average.
I have Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen sharing the net almost equally, with Koskinen (45) having a slight edge in starts (35). The big change in the goalie totals is a reduced shots against per game total, down from 31.7 to 29.2. Credit Dave Tippett, better health on defense and a bottom six forward group that doesn’t give it all away like motel matches.
The biggest improvement will come in goals against for the 2019-20 Oilers.
PROJECTED OPENING NIGHT ROSTER, 2019-20
Leon Draisaitl—Connor McDavid—Zack Kassian
James Neal—Ryan Nugent-Hopkins—Alex Chiasson
Markus Granlund—Gaetan Haas—Josh Archibald
Jujhar Khaira—Colby Cave—Sam Gagner
Extras: Kyle Brodziak, Tomas Jurco
Darnell Nurse—Adam Larsson
Oscar Klefbom—Joel Persson
Caleb Jones—Matt Benning
Mikko Koskinen, Mike Smith
Someone is going to freak out about Russell, but remember the No. 7 defenseman plays a lot every year and that never changes. Let’s compare the group listed here to last year’s opening nigh roster.
OPENING NIGHT 2018-19 OILERS
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins—Connor McDavid—Ty Rattie
Milan Lucic—Leon Draisaitl—Kailer Yamamoto
Jujhar Khaira—Ryan Strome—Jesse Puljujarvi
Tobias Rieder—Kyle Brodziak—Zack Kassian
Alex Chiasson, Drake Cagguila
Oscar Klefbom—Adam Larsson
Darnell Nurse—Matt Benning
Kris Russell—Evan Bouchard
Cam Talbot, Mikko Koskinen
The right wingers in the starting lineup a year ago would go on to score (ahem) 24 goals.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A big day today, lots of history and some looking ahead. TSN1260, 10 this morning. This is the anniversary of Black Friday in Edmonton, and we’ll chat about a major moment in this city’s history. Bruce McCurdy from the Cult of Hockey at the Edmonton Journal will pop in to talk Oilers expectations and pass along some Igor Ulanov memories. Kris Abbott from OddsShark will be by at 11:00 to talk football (CFL, NFL, college) and some prop betting, and then Michael Bradburn from The Score will help guide us through the mlb trade deadline. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!