Archive for 2015

Edmonton is improved, but only slightly.

It's Independence Day, July 4th and three days removed from free agency. We're also about a week since the NHL draft and the Edmonton Oilers are an improved team - but only slightly.

No doubt Edmonton has added some key pieces. Sekera, Letestu, Gryba, Reinhart, Talbot, Korpikoski and Connor McDavid can all be seen as better than what the team employed last season in their respective positions.

Sekera is at least equal, if not better than Jeff Petry. Letestu is a younger and less expensive Boyd Gordon. Gryba and Reinhart bring more stability and nastiness to the 6 and 7 spot on the Oilers defense and McDavid... well he's Connor friggin' McDavid. But are the Edmonton Oilers a playoff team?

The Oilers will be one year better with prospects like Leon Draisatl and Darnell Nurse. However, if the Oilers are truly a contending team this season, neither is on the team unless they absolutely beat out spots reserved for NHL vets. It's entirely possible. I was one of about 3,000 fans who spent time at the open prospect camp and at the very least Darnell Nurse looks like he's not going to be denied. Nurse did everything at full speed and looks by all accounts, ready to take that next step.

Speaking of next step, the Oilers are also one year further along with Oscar Klefbom - who looks to be a horse on defense and took a big step forward at the end of last season. If he continues and with a new and experienced coaching staff, Edmonton is going to see improvements out of Klefbom and others, including some under-performers, namely Justin Schultz, Nail Yakupov and Nikita Nikitin.

These are all good things.

While I like all the additions and I think some players will be improved, none are sure bets. Instead, this roster is full of wait, see and cross your fingers roster type players who may or may not make a difference. The only real for sure seems to be Sekera, who the Oilers paid a good chunk of money to on July 1st.

Even Connor McDavid, the most highly touted prospect in a decade is just that, a prospect. He projects to be an impact player immediately, good for 50-90 points. But in hockey, one man won't win you twenty more games. Not even a Connor McDavid.

With an Oilers team only slightly improved, it stands to reason that if all goes right, the Oilers could be ten to fifteen wins better. That puts them around ninety points and likely not enough to make the playoffs.

While fans would be elated with a ninety point season and for the Oilers to be contending right up to the end, in all this, I'm looking at the possible and not the likely. Could Edmonton make a jump similar to one the Avalanche made a few seasons ago when they went from a bottom-five team to a playoff group? Everything went right for Colorado. Varlomov was lights out, their prospects were amazing and things fell well for them in a weaker division.

Count me among the fans who can't wait for October to see what this team will do. I'm more excited now than ever to be an Oilers fan. But, like Peter Chiarelli, I'm tempering my expectations in the hopes that the Oilers will pleasantly surprise me, instead of the other way around.

I'm so used to disappointment, I'm ready to be wow'ed. I hope they do.

Oilers Results from the 2015 Draft and Grades

Cam Talbot - A-

It appears as though the Edmonton Oilers have their goalie tandem for the 2015 -2016 season. Chiarelli made what is being referred to by most experts as a shrewd trade to get the best goalie available by trade at this years NHL entry draft in Cam Talbot.

I agree. Calbot was Chiarelli's initial target, he read the market properly and waited until he got the goalie he wanted at a price that he deemed reasonable.

Cam Talbot hasn't had a lot of time to show what he's capable of in the NHL, and for this reason I gave an A-, but what Calbot has showed in around 70 games over two seasons has been impressive. He's a smart bet.

Another potential knock is that Talbot has only one year left on his current contract and may choose to test the market at the end of this season. But I don't see this as a reason for major concern. The Oilers didn't overpay by giving up three picks to obtain him and he play well - and he will get the opportunity - he'll either be offered a good contract by the Oilers or moved at the deadline for a potentially bigger return that what was paid at the draft today.

Most fans see this move as I do - a smart gamble with huge potential upside.

Griffin Reinhart - B-

In contrast, Chiarelli also made a bold move. A bold move is what Oiler fans had longed for under the Mac-T regime and frankly what he'd promised, but didn't deliver on. Chiarelli was able to go bold in his first trade ever as GM and traded two decent picks in a deep draft for a maybe in Griffin Reinhart.

Some fans have called this too big a gamble, having forgotten they'd criticized MacTavish for failing to make moves that could improve the team now. I believe, as some others do, that Reinhart is going to over-deliver. He's only one step away from playing significant time in the NHL, he was buried in a strong defensive pool on with the Islanders and he's got a chance to do well here in Edmonton. He's the type of leader that will make the most of his opportunity.

That said, there is a chance he doesn't translate as well in the NHL and with the Edmonton Oilers. Perhaps he doesn't pan out as well as the 16th and 33rd pick might have. There is some risk involved here but the time to stop waiting and start acting is now. Chiarelli appears to be acting.

Naysayers will suggest this is just another example of the Oilers taking a player within their system, - on Old Boys Club version II, but when Chiarelli says he knows the player well, has seen him a number of times when he was GM in Boston and had interest in him, I see not reason not to believe Chiarelli.

I like that Edmonton got help now, instead of help in 4 years. McDavid and the rest of the cluster need to see some results and improvement from this club immediately. This helps more than future unknown draft picks do.

Eric Gryba  - C+

Peter Chiarelli also went with one of "his" guys and moved out one of Edmonton's who wasn't panning out in Martin Marincin to grab Eric Gryba from the Senators. The trade wasn't one-for-one, with some moving pieces involving Toronto, but it essentially ended up being Travis Ewanyk and Martin Marincin out and Eric Gryba and Brad Ross in.

This one appears to be lopsided in that many fans are thinking, why the hell would you trade a former 2nd round pick with years of pro training in Marincin and only for a depth defender. The answer is simple. Marincin was in hard to make the Oilers team this season and he wasn't performing. Eric Gryba gives you reliable depth defense.

I don't believe the Oilers are done with their efforts to add defencemen and Gryba is a physical, hard-nose player which the new GM wants. He'll do no more than play a bottom-six role and Edmonton now has a glut of bottom-six blue.

For those stuck on thr Brad Ross factor, forget Brad Ross as part of the trade. He's irrelevant and signed in Europe. He'll never be a part of the Oilers and that's not why the trade was made. His inclusion was a sheer paperwork, number of contracts play. What was important was the pick which Chiarelli flipped to trade for Gryba who he thought was more reliable and more physical.

Beyond the player, this trade also allows flexibility at the end of Gryba's term to keep or move on from his contract when Edmonton needs to spend money on their top end prospects.

I agree with the move, but I don't see it solving many problems.

Not Getting Dougie Hamilton - C

This is tough to grade because it didn't happen and why wasn't Chiarelli's fault - at least not in his control. He tried and made a solid pitch, but Boston was bitter and chose to take a lesser return so as to not trade Hamilton to a former employee.

Boston looks foolish on this all the way around and at least Edmonton tried to capitalize on their stupidity.

Draft Day Rumors

Cam Talbot

t appears the Oilers are not one of the closer teams to getting a deal done for goaltender Cam Talbot. Glen Sather is stating that an offer has been made of a first round pick for Talbot, and while he contends it's not necessarily about the first rounder, most believe it is either a first Sather wants or a package that includes a second and a prospect.

Oilers GM Chiarelli has gone on record that in a buyers market, he's not prepared to flip his 16th overall pick for a netminder. Chiarelli prefers not to get involved in any overpayments, preferring to spend his assets on defense.

With the Lehner deal out of Ottawa today, Calbot may get traded and a team is likely to overpay. That team appears not to be Edmonton. The Lehner trade also shows us that Craig Anderson's hunch that he was being moved to the Oilers is likely out the window as well.

Martin Marincin

Jim Matheson is reporting tons of interest in Martin Marincin and that doesn't surprise me. It also doesn't surprise me that the Oilers new management team would be willing to part with the player to make room for players they appear to be targeting such as Adam McQuaid out of Boston. I also believe the Oilers will be active on July 1st (and likely are now in talking to player agents) of veteran defensemen, such as Francois Beauchemin , Paul Martin or Mike Green.

Devan Dubnyk

For anyone looking at Devan Dubnyk making a return to the Oil Country, don't hold your breath. Word is that Minnesota is having trouble coming to terms with Dubnyk who is looking for upwards of $6 million per season. There is no way that Edmonton would pay that kind of money for a goaltender coming off of a very good half-season.

If Dubnyk goes to market and gets what he's asking, I'm a firm believer in that team will quickly regret paying that kind of money and term. I don't see Dubnyk repeating his Vezina performance. Is he better than what we saw in Edmonton on his previous tenure here? Yes. Is he as good as he looked at the end of last season with the Wild? I don't believe so.

Dougie Hamilton

No chance the Oilers offer-sheet him as a trade with the Bruins has taken place. Not sure what the return is yet, but it could be as much as a first rounder, defenceman and a forward. Wow. Boston may try to flip two firsts for Arizona's #3.

* Update... Flames give up nothing but draft picks for Hamilton. Looks like Boston thought about offer sheets and decided this deep draft in 2015 was a better time to get a first rounder.

Rumors the Day Before the Draft

There is some news coming the day before the draft and as teams and player agents are allowed to communicate interest with their respective camps before July 1. Some news coming out from the Edmonton Oilers camp.

This could be interesting. Anderson has some injury issues that might scare some Oiler fans, but he is a sure-fire #1 goaltender and the Oilers need a true #1. If Anderson is somehow aware that he may be moved and to the Oilers, one can only assume that the Cam Talbot asking price is too high.

This too is interesting as McQuaid brings some interesting skills, but is also not a top four d-man in most respects and what Edmonton has a lot of, are bottom pairing defencemen.

The Oilers have hired their assistant coaches and Edmonton now has a bench team that is basicially made up of San Jose's old crew.  Here's to hoping that none of the locker room issues that existed in San Jose last year were at all due to coaching issues.

Improving the Blue - Part 3 of a series

In "Improving the blue" we look at potential defensemen that the Edmonton Oilers might be interested in. Edmonton's need on defense is obvious and will be a major priority for new GM Peter Chiarelli. We earlier examined Mike Green and Brent Burns.

Today we look at Dan Boyle of the New York Rangers.

The New York Rangers are going to be caught in cap hell when their season eventually comes to a close. Whether they win the Stanley Cup or are eliminated right away, Glen Sather and the Rangers will have to shed some bucks and it appears that Dan Boyle may be the eventual salary dump. The New York Rangers like him, but he's simply getting too old and too slow compared to some of the other defensmen that the Rangers employ.

I'm not sure that the regression that's happening in Boyle's game is a good fit for the Oilers, or his contract, but there are a couple things that might make him an option.

First, (as the picture above shows), he has history with Todd McLellan. The Oilers current coach would know Boyle and what he can do almost better than anyone. Perhaps McLellan thinks Boyle still has something in the tank and with only one year remaining on a $4.5 million dollar contract, he's not a terrible risk.

Second, that risk comes with some upside. Even if Boyle isn't as fast as he once was, he's shown in the playoffs an ability to log some serious minutes when most thought he couldn't. He's a veteran, which the Oilers can use and he can quarterback a power play better than most.

Third, he shouldn't cost a lot of assets to obtain. The Rangers are looking for a salary dump and this would help them tremendously. That has value. Enough value perhaps, that a later pick and a prospect could get it done.

Could the Oilers work on a bigger trade, getting both Cam Talbot and Dan Boyle? Maybe. It's something at least to consider if I'm Chiarelli. Make a call, see what comes of it. 

Compensation in Management and the NHL

Peter Chiarelli confirmed in a presser with Edmonton media that the Edmonton Oilers would be providing compensation to the San Jose Sharks as a result of the hiring of new coach Todd McLellan. That was followed by confirmation that Edmonton would also be on the hook for compensation to the Boston Bruins for the hiring of GM Chiarelli.

With the news that Mike Babcock is now running the team in Toronto, it begs the question, how important is this concept of compensation in the NHL when hiring for management staff in key positions?

What does this mean for the Oilers?...

The Edmonton Oilers are a great example of what kind of damage this executive compensation system can do. The premise behind the idea is sound -- if a team hires an executive with key information, the team to which that executive is leaving doesn't want a) that executive to leave with said useful information and not be compensated and b) not have spent time and resources training said executive for the purposes of employment elsewhere. I get all that. And, in the case of Mike Babcock, this sort of makes sense. An argument could even be made that McLellans's situation is unique as the Sharks and the then San Jose coach, mutually parted ways.

But where an executive is terminated - as was the case with Peter Chiarelli, the rule lacks logic.

Lower End Executives...

What may be more important, is how it affects the teams taking on the executive and providing compensation. Will it affect their ability to draft well and ice a winning team? If for example, a coach like Todd McLellan wants to bring in his former assistant in San Jose to join him with the Oilers, is that now also a hire that requires further compensation? If so, would the Oilers choose to wait past the date of the NHL draft to make that hire, going outside the time-frame that is considered a window for compensation?

If so, this could get messy in a hurry as coaches in the past were given free-reign to bring in the assistant staff of their choosing. If they bring in current assistants with former teams, the former teams could demand compensation. Should they? No, probably not. Will they? Some will for certain.

For now, it doesn't appear to be an issue, but that's because the rules are unclear. Once the real guidelines start to sneak to the surface, this could become an interesting game of chess. Would a team like Edmonton hope that Todd Nelson catches on with another, different NHL team in an effort to recoup some of the compensation given up in previous hires? Would Edmonton force McLellan to wait on hiring his assistant staff until the window of compensation expires?

For the Oilers, who have just finished hiring a new GM and head coach, all within thirty days, they will lose two picks; either in 2015, 2016 or 2017 (one would have to guess 2016 and 2017 will be the years they will select). The gamble may be worth it, but it may require a full-time staffer just to keep up with the knowledge required to juggle such situations. Edmonton has one full-board in changing their entire management team. From the sounds of things, all executive staff are open to these compensation rules.

Oiler fans don't seem to be concerned at the present time, but perhaps they should be. If Edmonton keeps making moves, picks could be also heading out the door. Or, should the Oilers choose to wait out the compensation period, the coaches will lose some valuable time with the team or scouts as they prepare and do what's needed to be ready for the NHL draft.

I have a feeling, this could be just the beginning of some interesting and potentially confusing times.

Babcock Chooses Money and Power Over Winning

"Babwatch" is over... or is it?

Mike Babcock has landed. He's touched down in a location most thought he'd quickly brush-off, Toronto. The hockey capital of the world has found their big ticket coach, as The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed Mike Babcock over the next eight seasons by offering power and $50 million dollars along with a key to the city as the attraction. Yes, make no mistake, this was a decision made by the almighty dollar. Most experts also believe Babcock will be given room to make a lot of final decisions. The Toronto Maple Leafs is Mike Babcock's team now.

It seems obvious, this decision was not about winning.

Most in hockey believed it was down to Buffalo, possibly San Jose, or staying in Detroit. Everyone knew the Sabres were prepared to pay big dollars for Babcock and word is, the Sabres are quite upset, having thought they'd reached an agreement with the coach. But, as recently as Tuesday night, out of nowhere came Brendan Shanahan and a huge bag full of money. It is strongly believed, along with the record-breaking pay-day, close to equal say to whomever is hired as General Manager will follow. In fact, some are going as far to suggest it hardly matters who the next GM of Toronto is, final personnel decisions will be largely made by Mike Babcock. This after Babcock had gone on record suggesting he didn't want to be an NHL manager.

Either way, the Leafs won the day - at least if you ask most Leaf fans.

No doubt, Babcock is the most decorated coach currently in the NHL. He was and is a big deal, likely the biggest free agent we'll see moved this season. With it comes extreme pressure in a market already feeling the most pressure in the NHL. The reaction to this will be mixed.

So Now What?

Today's news will overshadow almost everything else in hockey for weeks. People talk about Toronto  and the Leafs as is without much news to offer. This is actually news. And, let the speculation begin. Tomorrow at 11am, we'll see the first of the media frenzy as Babcock and the Leafs introduce their new relationship to the masses and we should expect more media than anything the NHL might offer this year.

All that said, what's next in Toronto is still in question. Babcock is used to winning and it probably won't happen for him in the near future - as it might not have in Edmonton. That is unless Shanahan's apparent gamble that Babcock will also attract huge free agents works, which this writer thinks may be a stretch.

To me, this is the first of many news bits that will come out of Toronto. Expect a lot of player movement as with any coaching hire this big, Babcock's likely desire to place a stamp on the Maple Leafs is inevitable. Toronto still is the Hockey Canada mega-market and Mike Babcock is now expected to save everything. At least, according to the size of his new cheques, people will expect him to.

When Edmonton first was rumored to be a possible destination for Babcock, thoughts around the Oilers were positive. Hiring Mike Babcock would be the icing on the cake to a very eventful summer. I was personally more a fan of McLennan and that's how things turned, out, but Mike Babcock is an extremely good coach.

After this news and the money and pressure that will come with it, I'm glad the Oilers didn't pursue this.

Improving the blue - Part 2 of a series

In a continued series, we take a look at ways the Edmonton Oilers can improve their situation on defence, an area that Edmonton is clearly the weakest.

We last looked at the option of Mike Green as a UFA out of Washington. There are some who aren't sold on Green, citing his lack of defensive awareness as a reason not to spend what could be $5-$6 million per season on this player. I'm not sure I agree. Green has proven top-tier offensive talent, can quarterback the power play and has not yet reached an age of concern. Even in bad seasons, Mike Green is good for 40 points which is well beyond what any other defenceman did with Edmonton last season.

With the news that Todd McLellan is officially going behind the bench as coach next season, today we look at Brent Burns.

Burns got 60 points in 82 games last season with the Sharks and isn't a likely candidate to be traded from San Jose, but it's interesting to look at knowing that Burns is exactly the type of player Edmonton could use. In fact, Burns is the kind of player every NHL team could use. Size and a willingness to use it, skill, a hard shot and tons of useful NHL experience. Not likely a player most NHL teams would let loose.

However, there will be change in San Jose (how the Oilers were able to sign McLellan) and nothing should be excluded from the realm of possibility. Brent Burns has a limited no-trade clause that requires he provide three teams he'd approve a trade to and in the past Edmonton wouldn't have been on it; except, the Oilers now have a coach that Burns is on record having loved playing for and it was noted Burns would be willing to look closer at a team like Edmonton and consider the option with McLellan as coach.

Burns is a minute-eating defenceman. He can play in all situations and is on the level of the top ten elite defenders in the NHL. The kicker is, he also plays a ton of time at forward when called upon and does extremely well there. In 2013-14, Burns had 22 goals and 60 points, splitting time between the two positions. He's big, uses his size and likes the gritty style that would make him a top-end power forward.

Burns has a ton of World Championship experience playing for Canada, has been an all-star and is just a strange enough dude to fit in well with a team that is young and looking for an identity.

If a team were able to convince Burns to come over and able to get San Jose to bit, it won't come cheap. Edmonton would likely need to move it's 16th overall first round draft pick, a high-end prospect and a player like Justin Schultz or Martin Marincin and that may not be enough.

Todd McLellan named new head coach of the Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers finally let the worst kept secret out of the bag. Of the many big candidates available for coaching in the NHL, the Oilers grabbed and signed one of the key players in Todd McLellan and introduced him to Edmonton fans and media today.

After being an assistant in Detroit and earning a Stanley Cup, McLellan went on to spend seven seasons with the San Jose Sharks and most recently cites a winning and dominant performance as coach at the World's on his resume where team Canada won a gold with two players from the Oilers current squad - Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall, both of whom played significant roles.

McLellan is known for a fast-paced, offensively sound team with a high-end power-play. Edmonton has some offensive weapons. Chairelli cited McLellan taking veteran and young players, mixing them with elite, skilled players and getting the best out of them. "his level of energy and level of thinking really impressed me." when asked by Ryan Rishaug about why McLellan was the top choice for the Oilers. Chiarelli and McLellan both seem to agree that it will be more about playing harder with the current sqaud than it will be flipping most of the roster.

Along with being from western Canada, McLellan cited his time with Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall as reasons for his choosing Edmonton. He's also had plenty of time to think about what it will be like to coach incoming Connor McDavid.

Noted that he'll need to help McDavid get used to the transition of moving to the NHL, McLennan says that the world in junior is different and that there will be a lot of pressure on McDavid, but that he will be supported along the way by the coaching staff and organization.

The Oilers are starting with a clean slate and fresh perspective. McLellan will be the main messenger, but the two - Chiarelli and McLellan will need to work together to find the best solution for this young Oilers team moving forward. They bring a stability to the Oilers that Edmonton hasn't seen in years.

McLellan is calm, respectful, personable and perhaps most importantly, a veteran coach who will be provided immediate respect, which he appears to already have from two of Edmonton's top stars in Eberle and Hall. They now know what it feels like to win and they do so with their new coach.

Bob Nicholson expressed more change throughout the organization on the horizon, but for fans, next up is the NHL combine and then the NHL draft, where Edmonton will watch and then select McDavid. The Oilers also have a number of other picks in a deep draft, including the 16th overall selection which could be in play to other teams to help improve the Oilers defence.

For now, fans will stay excited and speculation will begin in terms of what happens with former Oiler coach Todd Nelson. Will he stay? Is he gone? Is McLellan wanting to keep him around? McLellan stated no announcements are on the immediate horizon.

Improving the blue - Part 1 of a series

It's no secret the Edmonton Oilers need to improve in front of their net-minder if there's any hope at all of moving out of a lottery position on draft day. GM Peter Chiarelli has already identified Edmonton's weakness on defence and Chiarelli seems a man of action. What kind of action might he take?

First, there are UFA's on the market that he might pursue come July 1. Whether many of them are a good idea or not would be up for much debate.

Mike Green 

Mike Green is a player I'd target out of Washington. He's young enough, saw a resurgence this past season and is the kind of player who can run a power-play. The Oilers were hoping to have that kind of player in Justin Schultz, but to date, Schultz hasn't lived up to expectations.

 Green has the potential to be somewhere in between his 35-45 point seasons of the past couple years and the 70-75 point seasons he put up in 2008-2010. He might just be the type of project Todd McLellan can mold into a top pairing player. With Washington's excess of d-men, perhaps they choose not to pay the $5 plus million Green will fetch on the open-market.

more coming soon...

What to do with Leon Draisaitl

Should he play center? Should he play wing? Should he play in the NHL at all? Should he play for the Oilers?

These are all questions GM Peter Chiarelli will need to answer and likely before the start of the NHL season.

What's your thought? We'd love to have you sign up to our new site and give us your comments.

New Faces of Fear

Will the Edmonton Oilers roster on opening day strike fear into the hearts and minds of their opponents? Will the opposition look across the ice and see a team that they'd rather not be playing? A team that will no longer guarantee a two-point match-up for the Oilers opponents?

The way the roster is shaped now, I would say no - not even with Connor McDavid in the top-six.

But, it doesn't mean the Oilers can't take a significant step forward and make some adjustments this off-season to improve the likelihood they are a team you don't want to play.

The Oilers offensive talent is obvious. With the addition of Connor McDavid, Edmonton's potential to put up big points could be a scary thought for some teams who aren't built well on the blueline. But can the Edmonton Oilers keep goals out of their own net? That is the million dollar question.

The addition of a more seasoned Darnell Nurse, whether this year or next, will help. However Nurse can't be relied upon to have a feature role this upcoming season, nor shut down the opponents top forwards. He's simply too inexperienced. Oscar Klefbom has played well in limited NHL minutes, but is he ready to be a top-pairing player? The Oilers certainly hope so, but the chance of regression always exists in what is really going to be Klefbom's sophmore season.

That leaves Mark Fayne - a traditional shut-down defenseman. Nikitin, Ference, Marincin and Schultz all come with serious question marks in terms of playing strong defence or just father-time catching up to them.

Until Edmonton adds a veteran NHL defenceman in the agre range of 28-32,with tons of experience, the Oilers will get scored upon, and often. They better be prepared to win 6-5 in an NHL not known any more for high-scoring games.

This of course, says nothing about the Oilers goaltending situation, which is less than pretty. 

Previous Posts