There’s a lot we don’t know about Ken Holland, including his grades on Oilers, Condors and the organization’s distant bells. It’s safe to say we’re going to see more changes at the deadline, in spring and then summer, and that some of the names we anticipate remaining will be going, plus vice versa.
On a day when we’re many days from the next Oilers game, this is an ideal time to have that conversation. Consider it hockey’s version of a rain delay.
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 Athletic, less than two coffees a month offer here.
- New Lowetide: Kailer Yamamoto gives Oilers a midseason spark, one of the best in team history
- New Lowetide: With the Oilers’ minor-league goaltending not good enough, Ilya Konovalov might be the answer
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Josh Archibald, Riley Sheahan show the upward trend of Ken Holland’s offseason moves for the Oilers
- Lowetide: Post-Christmas performance spike has Evan Bouchard pushing for an NHL job with the Oilers
- Lowetide: Central Scouting’s midseason list offers Oilers some strong draft options
- Jonathan Willis: The Oilers’ road forward — and perhaps to a Stanley Cup — requires trusting the kids on defence
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers make a smart two-year bet on Caleb Jones, who has done nothing but improve
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: 3 things from the latest Oilers win: A lacrosse goal, Mike Smith’s resurgence and Connor McDavid’s new linemate
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: A defiant Zack Kassian issues his latest salvo against Matthew Tkachuk: ‘He messed with the wrong guy’
- Lowetide: Dave Tippett’s deployment of Oilers defencemen indicates Kris Russell is vulnerable to trade
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers Notebook: Jujhar Khaira’s future, Caleb Jones’ adaptation to NHL speed
- Lowetide: Projecting William Lagesson’s future with the Edmonton Oilers
- Jonathan Willis: Kailer Yamamoto has impressed the Oilers and especially star linemate Leon Draisaitl
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: 10 bold predictions for the Edmonton Oilers in 2020
- Jonathan Willis: Inside a coach’s impact: How Dave Tippett gets the most out of the Oilers’ players
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Deciding what to do with Darnell Nurse, Mike Smith, Tyler Benson and Evan Bouchard
- Lowetide: Ken Holland’s targets for his first trade deadline with the Oilers.
- Lowetide: Ken Holland’s trade deadline options for the Oilers
- Jonathan Willis: Zack Kassian’s breakout performance presents Oilers GM Ken Holland with a familiar dilemma
- Lowetide: Complete Oilers top 20 prospects list, winter 2019
I knew you’d call. Are they in last? No, tied for second in the Pacific at this time.
Huh. Are they any good without McDavid? About the same as last year, the big difference this season is both special teams and in the last eight games something close to a second line.
How good is McDavid ON? Improved compared to last season. In 2018-19, McDavid was 77-75 (+2) on ice goal differential five on five. This year, he is 48-42 (+6). He was +20 in 2017-18, so there’s lot of room to grow once the club can find him top drawer linemates on both sides. McDavid’s career peak is 2016-17, when he was 77-47, +30.
How bad are things with McDavid off the ice? So far this year, Edmonton is 95-110 (-15) at five on five. Without McDavid, the number is 47-68 (-21) and Edmonton is getting 40.9 percent of the goal share without 97 on the ice. Last year, the Oilers were 69-103 (-34), delivering a goal share of 40.1.
Is there any good news? Yes. I think so. I like to use centers as an indicator for each line and five on five goal differential as the measure. Remember, this team has been unable to find two outscoring lines. As I see the numbers, the C’s are McDavid (48-42, +6), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (22-20, +2), Riley Sheahan (12-22, -10), Gaetan Haas (11-13, -2), Leon Draisaitl (2-11, -9), Colby Cave (1-2, -1), Markus Granlund (0-1, -1). I got Leon’s number by isolating him from both Nuge and McDavid via NST.
You said there was good news. Yes, the last eight games saw coach Tippett run Nuge-Draisaitl-Kailer Yamamoto and they’re about 50 percent shot share and on a goal scoring heater. Early days, and we’ll have to see, but the line has great curb appeal. Two outscoring lines would be progress.
Who are McDavid’s linemates? At the beginning of the year it was Draisaitl-Kassian but the team checked down to Neal-Kassian and in the last two games Neal-Archibald. They’re going to need another winger of course, whether that comes at the deadline or this summer. Said player may also be on the farm or in Europe.
How is Tippett running the forwards versus elites? Among regulars, there are three men who have played 200+ minutes against elites (97, 29, Kassian). Nuge and Neal have played 185+ minutes, and Jujhar Khaira has played over 140 minutes (representing 31.1 percent of his overall time). This is all five on five and all courtesy PuckIQ. Among non-regulars, Colby Cave and Kailer Yamamoto spent 35 percent of overall time against elites. McDavid is the star in possession, rel and goal differential (22-12) against elites. Nuge and Khaira have struggled here relative to teammates.
When are they calling up Benson? That brings us back to Holland’s evaluation. It may differ from Peter Chiarelli, the scouting staff and scouting directors. After the AS break, we may see Benson recalled as a pre-deadline audition. If that doesn’t happen, he would emerge as a player who might grade out lower for Holland. My ‘reasonable expectations‘ before the season suggested Benson and Cooper Marody would be here by now. That may be a tell.
Who is Tippett trusting on defence? That might be the biggest story of the year, in terms of Oilers surprises. Four men are spending over 32 percent of their five on five time against elites: Ethan Bear (36.4), Darnell Nurse (36.0), Adam Larsson (34.1) and Oscar Klefbom (32.3) are being asked to play in the heart of the game. In terms of performance relative to teammates, the top performers are Nurse, Larsson and Bear (this is all through the miracle and wonder of Puck IQ).
What are the pairings? Again against elite, Nurse-Bear have played 270 minutes and have a DFF percentage (that’s smart-Corsi, with shots against graded on danger and range) of 45.60 and a ‘rel’ of +3.7. The pair has outscored elites 16-13, but I need to mention both defenders have played over 170 minutes with Connor McDavid.
Second pairing? Klefbom-Larsson have been together for 113 minutes, Larsson missing much of the first half of the season. They boast a 47.70 DFF and a ‘rel’ of +3.4. The duo has outscored elite opponents 5-2, Klefbom playing 90 minutes with McDavid and Larsson 26. I still think this is the top pairing, your mileage may vary.
Goaltending? It has held through the season’s first half but lots of wobble in between the good times. Mike Smith’s save percentages by month: .919, .895, .828, .924. That’s Jekyll and Hyde territory. Mikko Koskinen by month: .922, .918, .901 and .879. The January total is misleading for Koskinen it’s just one game.
Who are Ken Holland’s keepers? Well that’s the point, beyond McDavid and Draisaitl (who he referred to as ‘Connor and Leon’ in his interview with Mark Spector) we can’t say for certain. He values Philip Broberg and Raphael Lavoie because he was part of the team drafting in 2019. Does he put the same value on Evan Bouchard and Tyler Benson as the previous admin? I will say yes, but one never knows about these things and Holland’s grades will differ from the past dollar sign placed on the muscle.
What the hell does that mean? It’s an old baseball book about scouting. Fabulous. It is here.
Who do you think Holland values? I think speed is a priority, so we’ll need to view prospects and acquisitions through that lens. I would guess that men like Joakim Nygard and Josh Archibald have a better chance of getting re-signed than slower folk. I would also guess that Bouchard will be valued by the organization because of his exceptional skill, but may be brought along slowly, beginning third pair in the NHL. As for Benson and Marody, same thing. Arrive, prove, move up. I don’t see an Ethan Bear emergence for any of them to be honest.
What a load of hooey. You asked my opinion and that’s it. I also think the speed issue could impact Adam Larsson’s future with the team.
Are you enjoying The Athletic? There are many awesome writers there, and you are there as well. I absolutely love it, proud to be writing with Jonathan and Daniel. It’s a dream come true, writing about hockey for a living. I remain humbled by the opportunity.
Do the Oilers make the playoffs? I think it’s too close to call. Dave Tippett is a helluva coach and the Oilers have the two best players in the race. I expect Holland will make a tweak or two and Benson, Lagesson and others can help when recalled from the farm. There’s a structure and pace to the pipeline again, feels like a measured response at the deadline is likely.
What grade would you give Holland and Tippett this year? Tippett’s an easy one, he is an “A” all day long in terms of roster management. Holland’s mark would be a little shy of that, I’ll say “B+”. Although his trade for James Neal alone earns him a passing grade, the drafting of Broberg and signing of Chiasson got flagged in examination. Some of that is we’ll see, but it’s part of the record and we’ll need to deal with it in the now.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, TSN1260, we hit the ground running with fabulous guests. Jonathan Willis from The Athletic will join me to talk first half of the season (surprises good and bad) and we’ll chat recalls and trade deadline. Corey Graham will talk Oil Kings at 11, the club is playing the most exciting hockey since 2014 of late. John Horn is our tennis expert and he’ll chat Australian Open at 11:25. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!