Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

by Lowetide

Ethan Bear had a very successful rookie season, full credit due the young man. He worked hard over the spring and summer, arrived in camp and impressed everyone, and adjusted quickly to the role Dave Tippett chose for him. Those sentences roll off the typewriter easily, but you can go a decade or more between fifth-round picks working out this well. You know, Dave Tippett should get some credit.


I’m proud to be writing for The Athletic, and pleased to be part of a great team with Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis. Here is our recent work.


I’ve tackled this before, here and at The Athletic, and it’s a fairly easy thought but the thrust of the point needs an exclamation point. Which brings us to today.

If I say Tippett found a way for Bear to flourish, or slotted Kailer Yamamoto into a spot he could be useful, or set up Caleb Jones to have success, you can see it in your mind’s eye. However, the impact of having three players shine like diamonds in a single winter is borderline astonishing in recent (2000+) history. For the three successes to be drafted outside the top 20 is merely another layer of sugar.

I think I’ve found a way to place last season in context. Here are my answers to questions about specific young players after the 2009-10 campaign, in the “RE” series. Pat Quinn was coach, in charge of deploying the troops, and good young players were going sideways.

What do these (Andrew Cogliano) numbers tell us?  Cogliano played in relatively calm waters for a player his age and experience. I think he might have missed MacT’s tendency to find a role for a player and stick him there. His 5×5/60 performance was down year-over-year but the entire roster experienced a dip.

How can these (Jean-Francois Jacques) numbers be better? They can’t, but Jacques would do less harm if he weren’t in a featured role. His presence (when healthy) on the top 6F was distressing and he’s ill-suited to playing minutes when offense is expected from the Oilers. The idea was to have a physical player on each line (Stone, Jacques, Moreau, Stortini) but it became obvious early on that he just wasn’t helping at all.

What do these Taylor Chorney numbers tell us? Chorney, a raw rookie clearly over his head, enjoyed the toughest zone start among defensemen and top 4 minutes in terms of difficulty and pairing. Incredible. At what point does a drowning man learn to swim?

They should have kept (Rob) Schremp for (Shawn) Horcoff’s offensive role. I’ll never understand this. Rob Schremp wasn’t in competition with Horcoff for playing time, nor will he be in competition at any time in the future. Even in a season when line matching was hit-and-miss, Horcoff played the toughs. Schremp is after Gagner’s job.

How Could these Sam Gagner numbers be better? This was a painful season for the Edmonton Oilers. Gagner played against the soft parade and delivered a fine Corsi. However, the offense wasn’t as strong at 5×5 and a more experienced center would have done more with the opportunity. Gagner was unable to be a difference maker at EVs, and he’ll need to improve because those ideal minutes are likely to be the domain of Tyler Seguin or Taylor Hall next year.

What’s the biggest surprise about the Oiler career of Robert Nilsson? That he’s still here.

What do these Ladislav Smid numbers tell us? Smid played in the best possible circumstances (Lubo as his partner, easy minutes in terms of opposition and a reasonable zone start) and his numbers reflect it. One would hope for more offense, although playing with Lubo meant a lot of playing guard while the brilliant one ad-libbed his way to California.

What do these Tom Gilbert numbers tell us? He’s the best defenseman on the team. Gilbert played a more comfortable role after the trade deadline and went 21gp, 3-17-20 in March and April and his final 7 games saw him deliver 2-10-12 totals. Before that, it was a matter of Pat Quinn trying to turn him into Ed Kea. Gilbert had the best season overall a year ago too, when the competition included Visnovsky, a healtier Souray and Grebeshkov. (Note: Ed Kea was a defensive defenseman).

What do these goalie numbers tell us? There were 6 rookie goalies who played over 1,000 minutes in the NHL this season. They were: Rask (Bos) .931; Howard (Det) .924; Varlamov (Was) .909; Gustafsson (Tor) .902; Deslauriers (Edm) .901 and Dubnyk (Edm) .889. JDD played in front of a poor team but you’d be hard pressed to include him among the league’s top rookies at the position. Deslauriers had some outstanding games (3 SO’s tied him with Howard for 2nd among first year G’s) but as mentioned above there were some poor moments.

There were too many youngsters in 2009-10 and I have sympathy for Quinn and Renney in that way. However, they doomed the roster with decisions like Jacques and Chorney playing too high, and found a way to derail Cogliano. Gagner still being sheltered was the right call but they might have moved him to wing at that point since center was a bridge too far. He didn’t like Lubo even though Smid had a good year with him, why not keep him around and build on that pairing?

A coach like Dave Tippett has great value because he can get these kids into successful situations. I’m excited to see Jesse Puljujarvi and Evan Bouchard and Philip Broberg enter the NHL with Tippett as coach. He has the touch.


I’m not sure if I’ll write on Kemp at this point, but wanted to pass along something learned over the years. Like Swedish boxcars, the NCAA defenseman who doesn’t get power-play time can fool you offensively. Kemp’s NHLE is 7.9 on 3-8-11 in 32 games with Yale (ECAC), so he isn’t going to see NHL power-play time. Then again, John Marino also played in the ECAC and his final college season (33 games, 3-8-11) is a perfect match for Kemp. Marino would post 26 points in 56 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2019-20. Count Kemp as a fine shutdown prospect with good speed and a good head on his shoulders.


A big show coming this morning as we have several hockey stories to track. Ryan Rishaug from TSN will join me at 10:20 for the latest from Red Deer on the World Junior team. At 11, Frank Seravalli from TSN will stop basting the turkey and join me to talk about NHL-NHLPA negotiations and return to play dates for the 2020-21 season. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!


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Nurse-Bear posted a 2.37 GA/60 in the second half of the season (January 1st through the end). Don’t bet on them getting broken up if that continues.


One thing that’s likely to happen next season is Nurse and Bear will be broken up. Why? Their GA60 (3.23) was too high. D-pairs with that high a number are very often broken up, either before or during the next season. The League seems to notice when D-pairs get scored on a lot. If/when that happens, Nurse, given his pedigree and stage in career and on merit, will continue to draw bigger minutes. Bear will get scaled back. That’ll help him and the team.

I would not that Nurse/Bear with McDavid was 3.56GA/60 and without McDavid was 2.95 GA/60.

I would further note that Nurse without Bear or McDavid was 2.13GA/60 and 1.78 xGA/60.



I don’t have time to pull the numbers at the moment…

Bear also had a huge spike in ga/60 at the beginning of last season when Larsson was injured. That number improved substantially as the season went on.

I have a lot of time for GeoregeXS and the data he brings here, but I think the Bear ga/60 problem should take care of itself with Barrie and a healthy Larsson, along with more experience.


2019-20 up to December 31st (5v5):
Bear w/ Nurse: 3.16 GF/60 – 3.90 GA/60 = 44.74 GF% (646:04 TOI)
Bear w/o Nurse: 3.01 GF/60 – 3.01 GA/60 = 50.00 GF% (99:46)
Nurse w/o Bear: 2.76 GF/60 – 2.76 GA/60 = 50.00 GF% (130:37)

From January 1st on:
Bear w/ Nurse: 2.49 GF/60 – 2.37 GA/60 = 51.22 GF% (505:58 TOI)
Bear w/o Nurse: 4.22 GF/60 – 3.17 GA/60 = 57.14 GF% (56:52)
Nurse w/o Bear: 2.03 GF/60 – 2.03 GA/60 = 50.00 GF% (88:31)

I think Nurse-Bear will remain a pairing for now based on their 2nd half success. Kudos to Tippett for sticking with them through a tough start though. Here’s how the Nurse-Bear pairing performed through the first 3 months:

October: 2.46 GF/60 – 3.55 GA/60 = 40.91 GF% (219:33)
November: 4.21 GF/60 – 4.49 GA/60 = 48.39 GF% (213:55)
December: 2.82 GF/60 – 3.67 GA/60 = 43.48 GF% (212:34)

Last edited 10 months ago by ArmchairGM
Harpers Hair

Just listened to a radio hit with John Shannon.

He says a league governor told him today to expect the start of the season will be pushed back to February 15th with a 40 game season.

He also thinks the players will fold and accept pro-rated salaries if the alternative is a lost season.


Yaremchuk, if you’re reading this, know that your assertion on today’s show that MacKinnon had “given back” a lot more than McDavid is just plain false. While his contract looks like a steal today, it wasn’t a huge value deal at the time. When the deal was signed, MacKinnon was coming off a 21 goal, 52 point season (15-16) and a 14 goal, 38 point season (14-15). The first year of the deal looked rather weak, with 16 goals and 53 points in a full 82 games.

It wasn’t until year 2 of the deal – when he was 22 – that MacKinnon took off, posting 39 goals and 97 points. On the flip side, McDavid signed his deal at 20 (a year early) coming off a 30 goal, 100 point season and 2 rounds of playoffs. Huge difference.

Darth Tu

I don’t think comparing McDavid and MacKinnon’s contracts was the right thing to do in that case. Maybe Draisatl and MacKinnon? Both are value contracts for outstanding players. McDavid is a generational talent.

Last edited 10 months ago by Darth Tu

Minor news but, per Gazzola, the two Russells and Stanton have joined the group skating at Rogers (Drai, Nurse, Gagner, Ennis, Chiasson, Skinner).

As we are seeing with various teams, players are getting ramped up for camps.

Seravelli this morning with LT said he doesn’t think the door is closed on an early Jan start date and wouldn’t be shocked if the two sides work over the weekend to come to a deal fairly soon.

Leroy Draisdale

Gags is skating with the Oil?


Yup – has been for a few weeks now since the voluntary skates started.


Pasqule just gave up 3 goals in 6 minutes in the latter half of the 3rd period and a 3-0 Yarsolav lead disappeared and they head to OT.

Come on coach, give the youngster another start…..


Pasquale gives up 3 goals on 8 shots in the third and then a goal on 3 shots in OT.

Heater over!

Come on Ilya!


Russian coach: Hey, Konovalev. Have you signed your extension yet? One ping for yes. One ping only. And I’ll let you out of the locker.


Whoa – I don’t recall that offensive heater for Gilbert – I always liked Tom – a great return in the Salo trade – thanks Belarus!

Harpers Hair

How the Sergachev contract affects high end D coming off ELCs.

What Mikhail Sergachev’s new deal tells us about Quinn Hughes’ second contract

Note to JP…take a closer look at Sergachev’s value.


Sign that leprechaun for big dollars there’s gold at the end of that rainbow! Dom knows😂🙈


Don’t have time to read it fully now, will try to later.

I’ll note that the article is by a Vancouver writer, could be some rosy glasses.

And also that Dom’s model seems like it might have some issues (it’s not readily available to actually have a closer look at, is it?). If it’s giving Hughes an 84 for difficulty of usage and Sergachev a 19, well I don’t know what it’s measuring (their usage isn’t all THAT different).

Last edited 10 months ago by jp
Harpers Hair

As always, a players deployment is subject to options available to the coaching staff.

In Tampa Bay, Sergachev vies with Hedman and McDounagh on the left side and, as the author rightly points out, Sergachev could easily handle first pairing minutes on a large swathe of other teams without those options.

Reminds me of the conversation a while back about why Shea Theodore took a while to make an impact in the NHL.

It had very little to do with Theodore but much more to do with a lack of opportunity on stacked defenses in both Anaheim and Vegas.

Vancouver is, of course the flip side of that coin where there was a clear path for Quinn Hughes to shine.

Also true in Colorado where Sakic surmised correctly that Makar could make an immediate impact and traded Tyson Barrie for Kadri.


I haven’t looked yet either.

I think comparing one defenseman’s minutes to another player’s on a different team is often quite challenging in terms of fancy stats.

As a starting point, team A has a true legit high-end number 1 d, and team B doesn’t, than all of the minutes are going to be easier for the other defensemen on Team A.

Based on that alone, you’d assume Sergachev plays easier minutes since Tampa has Hedman.

Tampa also has a far superior team with better forward depth, so again that would favor Sergachev having easier minutes.

Despite that, the Woodmoney suggests that Huges plays more minutes against elites and delivers a better DFF%.

The counting numbers also heavily favor Hughes. He also delivers more at 5v5.

Hughes, in the tradition of the Sedins, is a piss-cutter.


Perhaps an example of just how good Hughes is would be to look at Jacob Trouba.

The Rangers and Canucks were right next to each other in the standings by pts pct (17th and 18th favoring the Canucks)

Trouba went from playing a team with good forward depth, a good d partner (Morrissey) to being the being the number 1, without much help, on a mediocre team with some good emerging, but inexperienced defensemen.

The results of that transition are not terribly surprising.

Harpers Hair

Pretty much sums up my thinking.

Sergachev playing behind Hedman is not an indictment of Sergachev at all and just because he doesn’t play the toughest minutes doesn’t mean he cant.


And HH.

“I think comparing one defenseman’s minutes to another player’s on a different team is often quite challenging in terms of fancy stats.”

Maybe this is the crux of it. First off Dom is doing that, which he has to do obviously in this sort of exercise. Second though, from the fancy stats I’m aware of, I have no idea how he got to 19/100 for Sergachev and 84/100 for Hughes.

I’d have Sergachev higher and Hughes lower (again, based on numbers I’m aware of). This fits also the quality of team considerations you’ve both mentioned, yet Dom’s numbers say Sergachev – 19 and Hughes – 84. If Hughes is an 84 in Difficulty of Usage then Klefbom and Nurse would need to be 120, no?

Anyway, I just picked the Difficulty of Usage part out from the rest because it seemed obviously wrong based on what I thought I knew. I’m taking the entire model with a large grain of salt.

And yes, Hughes is looking like he may be a piss-cutter, though IIRC, even on the weaker Canucks D he was 2nd pairing in %TOI vs elites and had among the highest %Ozone starts in the league. Great on ice results but it seems he’s being sheltered a bit even relative to his mediocre teammates (of course Pettersson and the Sedin’s also get/got that kind of treatment, it’s a smart way to use certain players).

Harpers Hair

Let’s bear in mind that Hughes was a rookie and none of Sergachev, Klefbom or Nurse were.

As the season progressed, Hughes took TOI away from Edler which was especially true on the PP #1 where Edler started the season.

In the playoffs Edler and Hughes has almost identical TOI but Edler killed penalties while Hughes didn’t.

As Edler fades, Hughes will take on more difficult assignments and I wouldn’t bet against him.

And, as you say, it’s wise to deploy players where they can be most productive.

In the Sedin heyday, they got a massive amount of OZone starts playing to their strengths…doesn’t mean they couldn’t have handled the alternatives.


There’s a large amount of truth to this.

I would remind that this was about Sergachev being a ‘high end defensemen’. And about what the heck Dom’s model is measuring.


While I agree that Tippett is a very good coach I think it also has to be said that he was very lucky that 3 guys who he needed to play higher in the lineup than their draft status indicate were actually able to fill those roles when they got here.

That he had competent or excellent guys to play them with when they arrived & a coaching team in Bakersfield that did their part was also part of the story.

It’s been a long time since this team had good management & good luck at the same time.


All this praise for coach Tippett which I definitely think he’s entitled too but damnit lost in the shuffle is the defenceman whisper mr. Manson.


I give full marks to the organization as a whole. It was not only their success in this area but also in the much improved special teams. We get on the coaches and management when things don’t work so in fairness we should also acknowledge when they do an excellent job! We as a group were quick to find fault with a couple of deals that didn’t work out due the COVID pandemic as much as bad management. It is far easier to be correct with the advantage of hindsight. I am looking forward to watching this management group moving forward.


I was thinking similar, that it was lucky that those 3 players were able to step up.

Going in I guess we’d have expected Benson, Marody, Bouchard and Jones as the most likely to help if needed (Persson too, though a different category of ‘prospect’).

I feel like it’s less surprising in that context that those important roles got filled, while still being surprising who filled them, if that makes sense.


Who filled them and that they didn’t detract from the effectiveness of the other players but actually contributed.


Yeah it did go perfectly in the cases of Bear and Yamamoto. Going back to your first post, those definitely are examples of both good luck and good management.

I guess I was thinking only to the ‘who filled them’ part. Bear as top 4D and Yamamoto as a top 6 winger in 19-20 were barely in the realm of expectations in September 2019. But they did it, so very surprising. If Benson and Bouchard had filled those spots this past season I feel like it would have been much less surprising.


Yup. All three were found money.


Agree in general, with one minor quibble in that Yamamoto wasn’t drafted to be a bottom-6 player. He was always going to be on a skill line or not at all. IMO.


Agreed. My point would be that he far exceeded expectations in that role when he came up. Reports by OP about his play in Bakersfield notwithstanding I don’t think many of us thought he was a ‘missing piece’ in a top six role.

Last edited 10 months ago by defmn

He was clearly too good for the AHL (even with his pedestrian box-cars).

I expected him to be a legit NHL middle six guy right away but I didn’t expect him to be able to play the exact same game but with Nuge and Drai as oppossed to Cave and Esposito…….


You may be right but, then again, lets say his offence never popped (or regresses in the future and 2019 was a one-off), I can see him being a very effective middle 6/3rd line guy – energy, likely PK prowess, etc.


Don’t disagree with any of this.

Coaches can’t look good without the players making them look good but, for younger players to help make the coaches look good, the coaches need to put them in places to succeed, allow them to make mistakes, teach them how to learn from the mistakes, know how to teach the different personalities, help them develop their skills, etc.

Yamamoto started on the 3rd line but, after one game, was moved up to the Drai line – did the coach recognize the skill-set and potential chemistry or was it luck?

Bear was not even supposed to be on the team, let alone get moved up to top 4 minutes plus PK all year long. The coaches recognized the pop and gave him more ice and were rewarded for it. Bear had down games and stretches but the coaching staff stuck with him and allowed him to play through it.

Jones was eased in to the lineup and sheltered to start – put in a position to succeed. He was given a chance up the lineup when Klefbom got hurt and he rewarded the coaching staff with his play.

On the other hand, the coaching staff likely gets an F for their treatment of Lagesson (vis-a-vis the Manning ice time).


That was a painful crawl through memory alley.


With the signing of Sergachev, Tampa is now $1.9M over the cap limit with 19 players signed (4 short of a full roster) and no potential LTIR relief. Would an offer of say Klefbom + Archibald bring back Alex Killorn? Archi seems to be exactly the player type they targeted last year for their bottom-6, and I note that he’d be the only RH shot if such a trade was made. IMO he’s a similar player to Goodrow whom they gave up a 1st for.

Would Tampa do it to save $3M and gain LTIR?

Should Edmonton do it?

Elgin R

Oilers are over the cap as well and still need to sign Bear. So, unless Holland can trade out a large contract or two (Neal, Kassian) then do not see this as an option. Also, Archie is required for PK.


Trading Archie + Klefbom for Killorn leaves ~$1.5M to sign Bear.


Trading Archie + Klefbom for Killorn, and signing Bear for $1.5M leaves the Oilers $500k over the cap (I think). I guess they could run with 23 players and no cushion for injuries…


TB’s solution lies in NJ. Maybe Ottawa, LA or Nashville but most likely in NJ.

As you say they are $2M over, have two RFA’s they want to keep and haven’t filled the roster. Nibbling isn’t going to get it done. I suspect Stamkos goes on LTIR to start the season and give themselves more time to try & convince one of their high priced players to waive their NTC.

Bur IMO one of the four teams mentioned above is the team that is going to get a very good player & draft pick or picks. My money is on NJ.


Would we want to sign a 31 year old Killorn to a 3 x $4.5M deal as a UFA? I’m not sure we would..


Why would you offer up Klefbom for Killorn. Seems like a big overpay. Sort of a buy high, sell low, move by the Oilers.
Some team with a little cap space is probably going to pick up Killorn for free. They might even get a draft pick thrown in.


Holland doesn’t even have certainty on Klefbom heading to LTIR – tough for a GM to take on the contract with an LTIR premise without the certainty.


I wonder where this will lead Tampa. What decided to do was try a trade between them and the Oil. Holland won’t do this, but was the best I could come up with.

It ended up being Larson with $1 million retained, Kass with $500K retained, Benson, McLeod, Sammy & Kemp for Palat (1 RW), Killorn (3LW), Cernak (3RD) & Finley + a 4th and a 7th. I trade Chiasson to NJ for a 4th and Khaira * a 4th to Buffalo for McCabe (2LD) w/$500K retained.

Tampa the way I see it would have to trade Vasilevsky and his monster contract, so I send him to Ottawa for Murray w/$3,000,000 retained, Connor Brown a bunch of prospects and 2 2021 2nds. They trade Larson to TML for Malgin and a 3rd and then sign Hamonic to a 1 yr value deal.

Fantasyland, but it shows what a mess TB is in.


So this is the roster:



*Russell traded to LA for a 5th

PK1 = Turris – Killorn
PK1 = RNH – Archibald


Was JF Jacques on the 1st line THE nadir?

Quinn did have too many youngsters but his handling of the roster was not good.

And Tippett, he definitely had the touch in year 1. He’ll have lots of chances to keep it going with the likes of Bouchard, Broberg, Lavoie, McLeod, Benson. Very happy to have him leading the team.


Dark days for sure. I remember having some sense of optimism after the first few viewings of Ryan Stone at the time. I think he suffered a knee injury and didn’t do much after that with his career unfortunately.

All those years, cheering for young players who already had the deck stacked against them from the get go… Lowetide led us through it.

We are here. 🙂


I had optimism about a lot of those players (even JFJ for some years). There’s a lot of attrition for young players at the best of times but yeah the team was doing them no favors in those years either. Man.


That list deserves a little Sammy……