This is going to be the summer Ken Holland makes some changes around the team, I expect. He has his coaches in place, scouts too, and the AHL team is going well.
This year he has some room to wheel in free agency. There might be a chance to creatively offload the Mikko Koskinen contract, and if you’re in a dreamy mood, maybe the James Neal contract is bought out (I don’t think so).
The Oilers have some real quality. They also have a lot below replacement level. Closing that gap has been a work in progress since the McDavid draft.
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’s the latest!
- New Lowetide: What now for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins?
- New DNB: Connor McDavid shows his frustration as another year of his prime is lost: ‘We’re a group that expects more’
- New Jonathan Willis: The NHL gifted the Oilers Connor McDavid; six years later, they have yet to adequately support him
- New DNB: The Oilers’ 10 biggest offseason priorities after a disastrous first-round playoff loss to the Jets
- DNB: Blame Josh Archibald’s ‘poor penalty’ for a season-turning loss, but there’s much more that ails the Oilers
- Jonathan Willis: Lineup changes, Zack Kassian’s goal and other Oilers observations on an epic Game 3 collapse against the Jets
- Lowetide: Is Oilers coach Dave Tippett overreaching in search of goal suppression?
- Lowetide: The 5 biggest stories from the Bakersfield Condors’ 2020-21 season
- DNB: Oilers running out of answers to solve offensive woes
- Jonathan Willis: Mike Smith great, Connor McDavid pointless as Edmonton digs a hole
- DNB: How Jesse Puljujarvi’s return to Finland primed him for Oilers success
- Lowetide: The seeds of Oilers’ 2015 orientation camp forms heart of current team
- DNB: Darnell Nurse is on ‘another level’
- Lowetide: Jesse Puljujarvi has arrived for the Oilers — again
- Lowetide: Oilers final 2020-21 report cards: A regular season to remember
- New DNB: ‘The biggest transformation I’ve ever seen in an elite player’: How Connor McDavid took the next step
- Lowetide: Adam Larsson contract talks give us a glimpse into Oilers’ offseason plans
- DNB:What are the Oilers’ pressing questions ahead of the Seattle Kraken expansion draft?
- Lowetide: An early look at ideal Oilers’ free-agent targets for the offseason
50-MAN THIS MORNING (30)
- Goal (4): Mikko Koskinen, Alex Stalock, Olivier Rodrigue, Ilya Konovalov
- Left Defense (8): Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom, Caleb Jones, Kris Russell, William Lagesson, Philip Broberg, Dmitri Samorukov, Markus Niemelainen
- Right Defense (5): Ethan Bear, Evan Bouchard, Filip Berglund, Mike Kesselring, Phil Kemp
- Center (4): Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan McLeod, Kyle Turris
- Left Wing (3): James Neal, Dylan Holloway, Ostap Safin
- Right Wing (6): Jesse Puljujarvi, Josh Archibald, Zack Kassian, Raphael Lavoie, Kirill Maksimov, Seth Griffith
There’s plenty of work to do, I imagine Koskinen, Stalock, Turris and Neal are candidates to move on. This team badly needs help in a lot of places, I count left defense (if Klefbom is healthy) and center as the only strengths. Left wing is the weakest position.
- Goal: Mike Smith
- Left Defense: Slater Koekkoek
- Right Defense: Adam Larsson, Tyson Barrie
- Center: Gaetan Haas, Alan Quine
- Left Wing: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Tyler Ennis, Joakim Nygard, Joe Gambardella
- Right Wing: Alex Chiasson, Adam Cracknell
Based on deployment by the coach, expect Mike Smith and Adam Larsson to return. I also think there’s a dollar amount that Edmonton would eagerly bring back Nuge and Chiasson, but it remains to be seen if players and agents feel those dollars are satisfying.
- Goal: Stuart Skinner, Dylan Wells
- Left Defense: Theodor Lennstrom
- Right Defense:
- Center: Jujhar Khaira
- Left Wing: Dominik Kahun, Tyler Benson, Devin Shore
- Right Wing: Kailer Yamamoto, Cooper Marody, Patrick Russell
Based on usage, I think Devin Shore jumps into the group that will get a contract this summer. Likely to join him are Kailer Yamamoto (more in a minute) and Jujhar Khaira. Positional need suggest Dominik Kahun and Tyler Benson could get deals, and both Stuart Skinner and Theodor Lennstrom have reasons to recommend them.
FIVE ON FIVE POINTS PER 60 (FORWARDS)
For some reason, this stat and my usage of it became controversial in the comments section during the season. I guess if you hang around long enough, you see everything. I’m looking for a ‘level playing field’ for all forwards. Any forward who gets power-play time has offensive ability, but can they deliver at five on five, the biggest game state in terms of total time and a very difficult area to score in?
There were 84 forwards (7 teams times 12 forwards) who played 330 or more minutes in the NHL at five on five this season. That’s my pool. Top line forwards (No. 1-21):
- No. 1 Connor McDavid 3.58
- No. 5 Leon Draisaitl 2.64
These two men filleted the North division all year long. As always, the Oilers begin an offseason with enormous advantages over the opposition. This season, none of the wingers who skated alongside the two men was able to manage top-line production. Second-line forwards (22-42) were not able to deliver enough offense to qualify as productive second-line forwards, but one bottom-six player made the grade, and two skill wingers made it, too:
- No. 34 Jujhar Khaira 1.67
- No. 41 Tyler Ennis 1.54
- No. 42 Jesse Puljujarvi 1.53
This is a productive season for Khaira, whose most common linemates were Josh Archibald and Devin Shore. Lots of reasons to look past this player, I’d suggest it is unwise. Oilers fans are clamoring for offense, here’s a guy whose last four seasons five on five are 1.38, 1.38, 0.80 and now 1.67. That’s a solid NHL player. Plus his on-ice goal differential at five on five (13-15) is solid. Looking for progress? Khaira helped.
Ennis and Puljujarvi qualify as second-round performers at the bottom end, I think some credit is due to both men. Ennis performed well without ever getting a firm hold on a job, kind of incredible for a team badly in need of five on five wingers.
Puljujarvi was a revelation and I expect he’ll be even more productive a year from now. He is Edmonton’s third best forward and (last night’s apparent exchange excepted) has great chemistry with McDavid. Even last night, with the team clawing for breath in overtime and JP banished to the Haas ‘hinterland’ line, the big man was getting looks.
Several men played top-six minutes and delivered third line performances. Some narrowly missed, I’d suggest there are productive players at the top (Nos. 43-63):
- No. 56 Alex Chiasson 1.29
- No. 57 Kailer Yamamoto 1.28
- No. 61 Dominik Kahun 1.22
Nuge finished No. 66 overall (1.12) and the offense kind of ended there. If I were king, I’d consider 97, 29 and Puljujarvi the starting point for five on five offense and shop the world for two left-wingers and some Yamamoto insurance.
Ken Holland walked Dave Lewis after two years, so there is precedent, but I think Dave Tippett is safe. He did not have a good playoff series against the Jets in my opinion, running 97 and 29 was effective all year so putting them together was an unforced error. I also believe you have to play your third pairing and do have sympathy for the coach. Ethan Bear, who I believe is a quality young defender, was poor in the final two games. Still, you have to play your third pair. I’ll have more on the Lowdown.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, we’ll hear from you and a couple of interesting observers on the Lowdown (TSN1260). At 10:40, TSN1260 insider Matt Kassian will chime in on the game and series. At 11, Daniel Nugent-Bowman from The Athletic will give us his view of the series and look forward to the summer. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!