Baseball does it so much better, marking time and place for all things great and small. When Rusty Staub returned to the Expos for a pennant run a decade after he captivated a nation, the moment took on a life of its own, like a coronation or a lifetime achievement award from the Academy.
Hockey? Who wants yesterday’s papers, who wants yesterday’s girl? Let’s go back to September 3, 1999.
Great perspective from a ridiculous group of writers and analysts. I am proud to be part of The Athletic. Here are the most recent Oilers stories.
- New Lowetide: Dave Tippett’s postseason strategy against the Blackhawks
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Oilers notebook: Bear’s contract quandary, Broberg’s mini camp, bubble goalies
- Lowetide: Jesse Puljujarvi’s comparables suggest a possible future with Oilers
- Jonathan Willis: Every Oilers AHL prospect rated by how close they are to the NHL
- Lowetide: Setting the record straight on Oilers prospect Cooper Marody’s future
- Lowetide: Tough decisions face Oilers’ Ken Holland as cap forces painful choices
- Lowetide: How Oilers winger Kailer Yamamoto can increase his value
- Lowetide: Everything you forgot (but need to know) about Oilers’ 2019-20 season
- Lowetide: Injury is biggest factor in the Oilers’ hopes for extended playoff run
- Lowetide: Tyler Benson’s struggle to score might affect future role with Oilers
- Lowetide: Ken Holland’s second Oilers draft should deliver high-octane offence
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: ‘It’s all surreal’: Kevin Lowe’s Hall of Fame nod nets surprise and satisfaction
- Lowetide: 10 things to look for at Oilers training camp and the 2020 playoffs
- Jonathan Willis: Why Carl Soderberg is an intriguing free agent possibility for the Oilers
A lot of things happened in the summer of 1999. On June 7, Ron Low refused the Oilers offer for him to return as head coach. Edmonton would eventually hire Kevin Lowe as his replacement.
On June 25, the Oilers lost Kelly Buchberger to Atlanta in the expansion draft. The next day, the club traded minor league defenceman Craig Millar (he of the Satan deal) to the Nashville Predators for a third round draft pick in the 1999 NHL entry draft. That pick was used to select Mike Comrie.
At the draft, the Oilers selected Jani Rita, Alexei Semenov, Mike Comrie and Tony Salmelainen.
July 15, Edmonton signed Craig MacTavish as assistant coach. Four days later, Joe Hulbig signed with Boston, marking another Oilers first-rounder who didn’t work out. August 4, Bill Ranford signed as a free agent.
And on September 3, Oilers offer Esa Tikkanen a training camp tryout. Music! Tikkanen was a talented scorer, checker, agitator and could play on the top line or the fourth line and give you exceptional minutes. In 1986-87, my choice for best Oilers team ever, one of Gretzky or Kurri assisted on 28 of his 34 goals. Tikkanen never gets mentioned as the third man on that historic happening, but he was for much of the first two full seasons of his NHL career.
Fair to say Tikkanen was loved by Oilers fans and hated by the enemy when an Oilers winger. He had a resting facial expression that said “I enjoy mayhem” and a coach in Glen Sather (whose resting facial expression was “I’m laughing at you because I can”) a man who valued the qualities he brought to the game. Does Edmonton have anyone like Tikkanen?
Zack Kassian has many of the same elements (his 15 goals would have been traded for maybe 19 goals in 1986-87) and brings that rambunctious and edgy style. Kassian isn’t the dogged defensive player Tikkanen was and that’s something Edmonton misses on the current team.
Who is Edmonton’s best defensive forward? That’s an interesting question. Dave Tippett’s usage chart tells us he sent (or the opposing coach matched) the following men out against elites most often this past season (as a percentage of five on five individual minutes): Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zack Kassian. Kailer Yamamoto, Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Ennis also played major minutes but in less than a full season. All of this is Puck IQ.
That’s it? Not very scientific. I also like to look at the relative numbers, for Puck IQ I see Dangerous Fenwick Rel Corsi (DFFRC%). The leaders were Leon Draisaitl (+7.0), Connor McDavid (+4.1) and Zack Kassian (+2.6).
No, you have misunderstood. I’m looking for best defensive forward, please and thanks. Well, Draisaitl, McDavid and Kassian played the elites and have better possession metrics than their fellow Oilers (Draisaitl almost 50 percent against elites straight up). That’s your answer.
Among players not considered top-six forwards (97, 29, 93, Yamamoto, Kassian) did anyone play a lot and well against elites? James Neal played over 30 percent of his time against elites with a CFF%RC of +0.20, that’s good work from the veteran.
Any numbers stand out to you? Several. McDavid outscored elites 26-16 but his DFF percentage is 47.80. That tells me his fast break style results in chances the other way on a counter strike. Oilers need to control those moments with better support. Nuge may land on the 97 line at some point to shore up the area.
Anything else? Gaetan Haas. He spent 26 percent of his time against elites, winning the DFF battle 51.90 percent with a rel of +7.5 and a goal differential of 5-2. Joakim Nygard had similar numbers, you need to see it again and another time but it’s a good arrow.
Anyone in the system who could be a two-way forward and also no fun to play against? Kirill Maksimov has many of the elements we would associate with this player type, and he has spent time on the PK. He is more of an offensive prospect, but I would suggest he is the best candidate in a pool with no obvious one.
What about this year’s draft? Ridly Greig of the Brandon Wheat Kings checks the agitator boxes not sure of his two-way acumen. He is undersized but has skill and Red Line called him a ‘pit bull’ with underrated skills.
This could save the Oilers some cap room in an offseason it’ll be badly needed. I wrote about the cap here.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A busy morning with news stories falling like manna from heaven after a slooooow late spring/early summer. Todd Cordell from Infernal Access will discuss the New Jersey Devils hiring of Lindy Ruff. Gianluca Nesci, supervising editor from The Score, will talk the return of MLS. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!