A Giant Walks Among Us

There are dozens of takeaways from last night’s television premiere of ‘Whatever it Takes’, including the seriousness of the decision faced last spring by Connor McDavid. We learned he’s human, that people around are also concerned by his high speeds and possible damage from crashes, and that the young man heals like a super hero. We saw, perhaps for the first time, the real Connor McDavid. Raw, fragile, determined, purposeful. Impressive.

We learned that Ken Holland had a moment after being hired when he found out the true extent of the injury, and we can discuss whether or not that had an impact on his summer plans (I suspect it had to at least have some part in the process). That’s a lot from a television show.

Big questions: Where would this franchise be without McDavid? Does Ken Holland have trust issues? Does that change your opinion on Holland’s moves of summer? Do the Oilers approve of the verbal as it pertains to Nicholson? Is John Shannon the next big name to join the organization?

THE ATHLETIC!

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: Oilers prospects Evan Bouchard and Tyler Benson deliver best minor league performances in 20 years
  • Daniel Nugent-Bowman: ‘Hey, Sparky, can you do that?’: How the Oilers’ AHL video coach got his start as the Islanders’ mascot.
  • Eric Duhatschek: He’s special’: The people who know him best tell the story of how Leon Draisaitl took the NHL by storm
  • Pierre Lebrun: Where all 31 teams stand one month before the trade deadline
  • Lowetide: What do Connor McDavid’s best lines tell us about his optimal linemates?
  • Daniel Nugent-Bowman: I was an AHL coach for a day: Here’s what I learned
  • Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis: Oilers player poll: From the serious to the silly, the players weigh in on best dressed, most superstitious and more
  • Thomas Drance: Inside how ‘Okanagan boy’ Ken Holland helped bring back the Penticton Young Stars tournament
  • Jonathan Willis: Oilers minor-league defenceman Brandon Manning suspended five games for racial slur
  • Jonathan Willis: An updated list of which Oilers are most likely to be traded in 2019-20
  • Lowetide: Kailer Yamamoto gives Oilers a midseason spark, one of the best in team history
  • 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
  • LowetideKen 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

CONDORS 2019-20

I watched most of last night’s game, came away with a few impressions. I like Stuart Skinner’s game, calm in his net, allowed two goals, one an unlucky deflection to a forward in the slot, and the other a screen shot. Skinner’s winning this job, and maybe an NHL look down the line.

Evan Bouchard is a brilliant passer, he is quicker getting back on pucks and maybe a little cavalier with the puck in his own zone (quick back pass in the second period behind the net was gobbled up by the enemy). Performed well during a 3-on-5.

Matt Benning was quality to my eye, had a strong game and played a lot. William Lagesson had a strong game, the only quarrel I had was a little hesitation on a shot from a spot that was promising. Dmitri Samorukov scored a nice goal that required creativity and impressed with his mobility.

Ryan McLeod’s speed is impressive, he stands out in a good way. Looks more comfortable with the puck than he did earlier in the year. Tyler Benson wasn’t in the play early, but made up for it with great work in the last 40 minutes. He raced to pucks, sent passes to good areas, creative and responsible in equal parts. Josh Currie can shoot the puck, nice goal. Brad Malone had a strong night, good at both ends. Cameron Hebig scored an impressive goal, he’s on a little run here this week. Another game tonight, wonder if they run Starrett.

OILERS FORWARDS FIVE ON FIVE SCORING

We’ll start back to NHL stuff today and build toward Wednesday and the next game. One of the interesting happenings just before the AS break is an increase in the number of forwards scoring at a pace that keeps them in the range of average top 6 forwards. You may recall the last time we looked at this the club had three first line forwards (97, 29 and Kassian) a third line player (Sam Gagner) and an acre of fourth liners. Lets’ see what things look like now.

  1. Connor McDavid 2.88 (first line)
  2. Leon Draisaitl 2.81 (first line)
  3. Kailer Yamamoto 2.58 (first line)
  4. Zack Kassian 2.33 (first line)
  5. Sam Gagner 1.66 (third line)
  6. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 1.46 (third line)
  7. Joakim Nygard 1.29 (fourth line)
  8. Riley Sheahan 1.11 (fourth line)
  9. Josh Archibald 1.05 (fourth line)
  10. Gaetan Haas 0.99 (fourth line)
  11. Jujhar Khaira 0.92 (fourth line)
  12. Alex Chiasson 0.78 (fourth line)
  13. James Neal 0.76 (fourth line)
  14. Patrick Russell 0.69 (fourth line)

This is real progress, especially regarding Yamamoto (in a small sample size) and Nuge correcting like a demon. One of the areas we’re going to drill down on in the coming days: Who should be playing on McDavid’s wing? Here are the current numbers posted by winger. It’s clear that James Neal is so far off the pace that replacing him should be a priority.

  1. Nuge 3.87 (1-1-2 in 31 minutes)
  2. Leon Draisaitl 3.09 (10-17-27 in 523 minutes)
  3. Jujhar Khaira 2.68 (1-0-1 in 22 minutes)
  4. Josh Archibald 2.56 (2-1-3 in 70 minutes)
  5. Zack Kassian 2.48 (12-12-24 in 581 minutes)
  6. Sam Gagner 1.85 (0-1-1 in 32 minutes)
  7. Alex Chiasson 1.3 (one assist in 46 minutes)
  8. Joakim Nygard 1.1 (0-1-1 in 54 minutes)
  9. James Neal 0.61 (1-1-2 in 195 minutes)

Based on these numbers, and assuming the No. 2 line remains hot as a firecracker, how would you populate the lines in the second half? Here’s my thoughts:

  • Joakim Nygard—Connor McDavid—Josh Archibald
  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins—Leon Draisaitl—Kailer Yamamoto
  • Jujhar Khaira—Gaetan Haas—Zack Kassian
  • Tyler Benson—Riley Sheahan—Alex Chiasson/Sam Gagner

The alternate plan would have Benson with McDavid and Nygard on the fourth line. It’s time for Benson. We’ll talk more about it tomorrow.

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247 Responses to "A Giant Walks Among Us"

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  1. Ryan says:

    v4ance,

    I find the endless debate over Kassian’s next contract fascinating in that it’s disorientating… I can’t tell one day from the previous reading the comment section here causing all of us to restate our opinions over and over ad nauseam.

    There are those who can understand that paying a 29-year-old bottom sixer dollars and term for McDavid cooked stats is bad idea and those who do not.

    That’s where we’re at.

  2. duct tape and foil says:

    Ryan:
    v4ance,

    I find the endless debate over Kassian’s next contract fascinating in that it’s disorientating… I can’t tell one day from the previous reading the comment section here causing all of us to restate our opinions over and over ad nauseam.

    There are those who can understand that paying a 29-year-old bottom sixer dollars and term for McDavid cooked stats is bad idea and those who do not.

    That’s where we’re at.

    …and there are those who cannot bring themselves to accept that the new clean mature Kassian with a supportive coach is a categorically different player than the substance abusing, out of control player who was buried by a coach who hated his guts.

    All the haters can do is keep referring to stats produced while he was drunk half the time or playing with Brodziak and Letestu. Not terribly convincing unless you think he’s going to relapse or TMac is coming back for an encore.

    • Bling says:

      duct tape and foil: …and there are those who cannot bring themselves to accept that the new clean mature Kassian with a supportive coach is a categorically different player than the substance abusing, out of control player who was buried by a coach who hated his guts.

      All the haters can do is keep referring to stats produced while he was drunk half the time or playing with Brodziak and Letestu. Not terribly convincing unless you think he’s going to relapse or TMac is coming back for an encore.

      Kassian absolutely deserves credit for getting his life on track.

      I just have a hard time believing that a guy who has doubled his shooting percentage while playing with the best player in the world has found a new level of performance at age 29.

      He is a useful player, but overpaying him is a mistake.

      If he was having an average year shooting percentage wise, he would be on pace for around 15 goals. Now factor in age related decline over 3-4 years. You might be looking at a 5-10 goal scorer the last two years of a four year deal.

      That isn’t even factoring in that he might lose his top 6 job.

  3. Bulging Twine says:

    jp:
    For some context on this, forwards by cap hit this season:

    1st line
    #1 McDavid $12.5M
    Median Kesler $6.875M (ha!!)
    #93 Foligno $5.5M

    2nd line
    #94 Zucker $5.5M
    Median Toffoli $4.6M
    #186 Cizikas $3.35M

    3rd line
    #187 Grabner $3.35M
    Median Weise $2.35M
    #279 Leivo $1.5M

    4th line
    #280 Ritchie $1.498M
    Median Joseph Anderson NJD $0.925M
    #373 Foote $0.925 (lotta players making 925k)

    And in scoring – these are last years full season numbers:

    1st line
    #1 Kucherov 128
    Median Radulov 72
    #93 Gallagher 52

    2nd line
    #94 Lee 51
    Median Ferland 40
    #186 Thomas 33

    3rd line
    #187 Lindblom 33
    Median Spezza 27
    #279 Kuraly 21

    4th line
    #280 Wagner 21
    Median Cogliano 17
    #373 Luff 11

    $3.5M would be a low low end 2nd line salary.

    Very useful! Thank you

  4. Unfriendly Regional Arachnid Individual says:

    leadfarmer: And this is why you have no understanding of the player.
    I would really like to see how Yamamoto or Archie responds when the refs lose control of the game.Which one of them is going to take Jordan Greenway on when he starts taking liberties with our players.He could probably take down Archie Yamamoto and Benson himself

    Darnell Nurse and/or any other big D we might acquire, sign or develop over time. The “protection” or deterrence doesn’t have to come in the form of a forward linemate.

    Vegas had Reaves and Engelland and an overall unified team identity. Tampa has Maroon, Coburn and the imposing size of Hedman (though he’s hardly a deterrence in the sense you mean). Carolina had Ferland, Foegele and Martinook as the extent of their real physical presence. Even the Bruins’ deterrence is built around Chara, Carlo and a strong team identity. Pittsburgh’s Cup winning teams had next to no deterrence, though Cole is pretty tough.

  5. v4ance says:

    duct tape and foil: …and there are those who cannot bring themselves to accept that the new clean mature Kassian with a supportive coach is a categorically different player than the substance abusing, out of control player who was buried by a coach who hated his guts.

    All the haters can do is keep referring to stats produced while he was drunk half the time or playing with Brodziak and Letestu. Not terribly convincing unless you think he’s going to relapse or TMac is coming back for an encore.

    And yet Kassian boosters still can’t explain how 50% of all the wingers who get lined up with McDavid will produce at 1st line rates.

    Why does Kassian deserve the praise and the raise when literally AHL tweeners like Rattie or 3rd or 4th liners like Caggulia, Khaira or Archibald can produce at similar levels alongside McDavid?

    I don’t hate Kassian. I think he’s a useful player. I just believe you don’t overpay for complimentary players who are replaceable with almost any other wingers who play on McDavid’s line.

    ***

    Take this hypothetical situation.

    Let’s say McDavid’s leg injury didn’t heal, the PCL didn’t reconnect and they had to surgically reconstruct his knee, sidelining him for the entire year. The logical thing that Tippett would have done is that he would have constructed two lines with Draisaitl and RNH centering each line with Kassian somewhere in the top 6.

    Without McDavid, is there any realistic scenario where Kassian produces at 1st line scoring rates? If you honestly believe that he would produce at the same rates alongside two wonderful players in Drai and Nuge as he does with McDavid, then yes. He deserves the raise to $3.5M+

    The other thing is this: at $3.5M and up, that payment is about the range of a high level 3rd line winger or bottom end 2nd liner. Has Kassian shown the ability to dominate and drive play from the 3rd or 4th lines? If you say you’ve seen him consistently outplaying his opponents soundly on the bottom 6, then I’d call you a flat out liar.

    Before Kassian got put on McDavid’s line, there wasn’t any groundswell of public opinion saying “we absolutely have to get Kassian with McDavid!”. The coaches were cycling through every winger and center literally trying anyone and everyone with McDavid.

    Kassian is a nice redemption story. In the end, the NHL is a business. It would be nice to reward guys who’ve cleaned up their lives to bigger raises but that’s not how the business works. You pay for production. Kassian’s production is artificially elevated playing alongside McDavid. If you can’t see that, then your fandom is blinding you to the obvious facts.

    • v4ance says:

      In the five years in Edmonton where Kassian has controlled his alcoholism, his Shooting percentages have been:

      7.1%
      6.4%
      8.1%
      13.5%
      and this year 18.1%

      The average for his Edmonton tenure is 10.7% and his overall career shooting average is 11.9%.

      If he was playing drunk before (and by your inferrence playing worse), why are his shooting numbers better than when he is sober?

  6. Reja says:

    duct tape and foil: …and there are those who cannot bring themselves to accept that the new clean mature Kassian with a supportive coach is a categorically different player than the substance abusing, out of control player who was buried by a coach who hated his guts.

    All the haters can do is keep referring to stats produced while he was drunk half the time or playing with Brodziak and Letestu. Not terribly convincing unless you think he’s going to relapse or TMac is coming back for an encore.

    Did Mama Kass sign for 4yrs at 3 million per yr yet are does Mama have to wait for a business day.

  7. Woodguy v2.0 says:

    tileguy:
    10-5 Pacific division over the Central. Which is the weak division again?

    I know.

    I throw out all the regular season results and just judge players on All Star results too.

    *checks results*

    You would need 5 McDavids to equal one Hertl

  8. ArmchairGM says:

    LT, I do think we’ll see something close to your suggestion as a 1st line. As you pointed out earlier in this thread, Neal has 1 goal in the past 9 games. But most don’t realize that Kassian has zero goals in the last 11, two of which he sat due to suspension. That’s 9 games in a row playing with the best player in the world and he’s 0-3-3 and minus-3. Contract aside, I think he’s played his way off McDavid’s wing until further notice it’s time to give others that opportunity. I think Tippett will keep Archibald at 1RW for now, and he’ll start the 1LW trials at the 1st practice.

  9. leadfarmer says:

    jp:
    For some context on this, forwards by cap hit this season:

    1st line
    #1 McDavid $12.5M
    Median Kesler $6.875M (ha!!)
    #93 Foligno $5.5M

    2nd line
    #94 Zucker $5.5M
    Median Toffoli $4.6M
    #186 Cizikas $3.35M

    3rd line
    #187 Grabner $3.35M
    Median Weise $2.35M
    #279 Leivo $1.5M

    4th line
    #280 Ritchie $1.498M
    Median Joseph Anderson NJD $0.925M
    #373 Foote $0.925 (lotta players making 925k)

    And in scoring – these are last years full season numbers:

    1st line
    #1 Kucherov 128
    Median Radulov 72
    #93 Gallagher 52

    2nd line
    #94 Lee 51
    Median Ferland 40
    #186 Thomas 33

    3rd line
    #187 Lindblom 33
    Median Spezza 27
    #279 Kuraly 21

    4th line
    #280 Wagner 21
    Median Cogliano 17
    #373 Luff 11

    $3.5M would be a low low end 2nd line salary.

    But a lot of those are old contracts not new contracts
    Also you are not paying Kassian for just his point production

  10. Dustylegnd says:

    OriginalPouzar: Kailer Yamamoto?

    Tyler Benson?

    Josh Archibald?

    Josh Archibald has 7 5 x 5 points in 40 games

    Yamamoto already plays on the 2nd line

    Benson has 0 NHL points is not physical is not a plus skater and plays left wing

    Back to the drawing board bud

  11. Bling says:

    Dustylegnd: Josh Archibald has 7 5 x 5 points in 40 games

    Yamamoto already plays on the 2nd line

    Benson has 0 NHL points is not physical is not a plus skater and plays left wing

    Back to the drawing board bud

    Maybe we should wait to see Benson in the NHL before critiquing his game.

    He is not physical in the traditional sense, but from what I have read he is good along the wall and at winning loose pucks. His hockey IQ is also high.

  12. Nit64 says:

    Woodguy v2.0: You would need 5 McDavids to equal one Hertl

    ~ Save On could not afford Hertl on a Western Canadian roster. ~

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