I pay attention to clusters, because a balanced team will get a lot from the inexpensive kids, the prime group and the aged veterans.
In order to find balance, a team should have quality (and at least some quantity) in every age segment. Ideally most of the players come through the system, but a smart general manager can make trades and keep the production line fresh. Edmonton hasn’t enjoyed a balanced team since 2006 spring. How close are they now?
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 will Oilers do if they must replace Oscar Klefbom?
- New Jonathan Willis: What comes next for the Oilers’ Jesse Puljujarvi?
- Lowetide: Why Evan Bouchard, Ryan McLeod and more prospects are options for Oilers in 2021-22
- DNB: Ten teams the Oilers should be targeting for trades ahead of the Kraken expansion draft
- Lowetide: How Ken Holland’s transaction history could foreshadow the Oilers summer to come
- Lowetide: How close to NHL-ready is Oilers prospect Dmitri Samorukov?
- Lowetide: Oilers’ reasonable expectations eat dust during Connor McDavid’s dream season
- Jonathan Willis: Why some of the most popular moves Ken Holland could make would be mistakes
- Lowetide: Why huge Oil Kings goalie Sebastian Cossa could be the perfect first-round fit for the Oilers
- DNB: What I’m hearing about the Oilers’ plans for the Kraken draft
- Lowetide: The Oilers must decide now what to do about the Connor McDavid-Leon Draisaitl dilemma
- DNB: Oilers mailbag, part 2
- Lowetide: What is Kailer Yamamoto’s future fit on the Oilers’ depth chart?
- DNB: Oilers mailbag, part 1
- DNB: What a perfect offseason could look like for the Edmonton Oilers
- Lowetide: The Oilers need to add four wingers to their top nine this summer
- Lowetide: Oilers enter free agency as a major buyer. Is third time the charm?
- DNB: Ideal Oilers free-agent targets
- New Lowetide: An early look at the Oilers’ options for the 2021 draft
- New DNB: The pressure is on Oilers GM Ken Holland
- New Lowetide: What now for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins?
THE ENTRY CLUSTER
Now that the big guns have moved on, the Oilers entry talent is no longer the feature cluster. Bouchard didn’t get into many games in 2020-21, that will change in the coming season. Is 30 points in a full season reasonable? I think it is a little low. McLeod has a great chance but needs to score, Yamamoto is a big part of this team’s future if he can remain healthy and post offense.
- 2015-16: 301 games, 46-90-136 .452
- 2016-17: 236 games, 65-131-196 .831
- 2017-18: 334 games, 85-146-231 .692
- 2018-19: 253 games, 98-141-239 .945
- 2019-20: 212 games, 54-100-154 .726
- 2020-21: 77 games, 10-17-27 .351
Chances are Dylan Holloway, Dmitri Samorukov and others will join this group in 2021-22, at least for a cup of coffee. Yamamoto, the most productive member of the group, has played through his entry deal. Bouchard is going to be stone alone among this group in terms of 50+ games next season if McLeod can’t find the range.
THE MCDAVID CLUSTER
This is a fantastic cluster, McDavid and Draisaitl searing talents entering their prime, Nurse posting a strong season. Puljujarvi is pushing now, I think it’s fair to say he contributed more than a newcomer normally does in his first year back. Tough moments for all three young defensemen but we know they don’t develop in a straight line. I’d try to keep all three, but losing Bear on the eve of another season that is almost certain to be a value deal would be unwise. You could say the same thing about Jones, although I will acknowledge he didn’t progress as much as hoped.
- 2015-16: 584 games, 85-131-216 .370
- 2016-17: 507 games, 72-123-195 .385
- 2017-18: 651 games, 95-130-225 .346
- 2018-19: 687 games, 70-169-239 .348
- 2019-20: 290 games, 57-109-166 .572
- 2020-21: 366 games, 106-173-279 .762
This group produced 106 goals in 2020-21, which is to say 58 percent of the goals using 39 percent of the man games. This is why a Jake DeBrusk acquisition (costing less than Ethan Bear) is worth talking about over the next couple of weeks.
THE VETERAN CLUSTER
This is kind of heartbreaking, because just as the veteran cluster begins to drive some numbers, Oscar Klefbom misses the year (and maybe more) and Nuge could be leaving via free agency. Edmonton has rarely enjoyed a large group of truly productive players (witness the numbers below) but this bunch could have delivered with better health and Nuge on a good value deal. It’s a monster group 26+, the numbers should be better.
- 2015-16: 611 games, 68-190-258 .422
- 2016-17: 560 games, 65-148-213 .380
- 2017-18: 439 games, 43-104-147 .335
- 2018-19: 542 games, 61-73-134 .247
- 2019-20: 776 games, 112-170-282 .363
- 2020-21: 487 games, 64-112-176 .361
Holland’s veterans traditionally shoulder a great deal of the load, this group should be more populated than it has been in the past. The issue now surrounds losing Nuge and Klefbom, players procured through the draft and kept for their prime seasons. It would be fabulous for the Oilers to keep the key members of the cluster into their 30’s, giving Edmonton quality marbled through all of these areas.
Experience is important, vital to make sure the price is right. The Klefbom news hangs over the summer like a giant black cloud on the horizon. What do the Oilers need? For one thing, Dmitri Samorukov to be real.
For another, and this applies across the roster, Holland and his staff have to find pieces that will be effective. I don’t buy the idea he hasn’t signed a quality free agent long term in his first two offseasons being a downbeat. Why? Because he didn’t have the money, Holland was looking for players who could carry each other.
The time to add value free agents is now. Holland has enough to sign one big name, that’s probably Nuge or other for left wing. After that, the club badly needs some astute additions. Two or three year deals are fine, but they have to make the team better.
Can Holland find four men (LW, LW, C, LD) out there, add them to Adam Larsson and Mike Smith, and push for the top of the Pacific Division? That’s the nut, starting today.