Archive for 2016

Oilers Sign Tyler Benson, Halak on Waivers

The Edmonton Oilers have signed their second-round 2016 draft selection Tyler Benson to his entry-level contract today, keeping Benson in the fold for at least three more years.

Photo courtesy of the Edmonton Sun

Over at — where I am a regular contributor — I wrote the following about Benson.

If you don't know Tyler Benson, you should try to remember his name. Benson was taken No. 32 overall in last year's NHL entry draft by the Oilers and he's on fire in the WHL with the Vancouver Giants. In Friday's contest, he scored a hat-trick including an overtime winner. 
There was some concern over Benson's health in his draft year and that's why he slid to the second round and became available to the Oilers.  Edmonton took a chance on him and it looks, so far, like it's paying off in a big way. 
Benson won't see any time with the Oilers this season, but he's a prospect worth watching. He was highly touted all the way up to his most recent season when injuries struck. Benson could be the steal of the 2016 NHL draft and the Oilers may have another dynamic winger in their system.  
The best news for Oilers fans is that Benson is starting to find consistent scoring and looks to have rebounded from poor health issues that plagued his career. He's an excellent passer who has great vision and good hockey sense. He projects to be a top-six forward in the NHL.

Jaroslav Halak

A goaltender who was once caught up in the debate about who was better in Montreal — Carey Price or Halak — is now on waivers and available for pickup by any NHL team. To do so, they'd need to take on his $4.5 million dollar contract for this season and the next.

It's this issue that doesn't seem to make Halak a fit in Edmonton. The Oilers only have about $4.5 million in cap space and will need other items if they do in fact make a run for the playoffs. That cap space could be valuable and there is no guarantee that Halak can be moved at the end of the season or picked up in the expansion draft.

That said, if Halak clears waivers and the Oilers could make a trade with the Islanders keeping some of his salary, there may be a fit. 

Oilers Looking at Signing Kris Russell in January

The Edmonton Oilers have been in the news over the holiday season. Some of it has to do with how well the team has done under some lesser expectations to start the season. Most of it comes as a result of word leaking that the Oilers are interested in offering an extension to Kris Russell upon his eligibility to resign January 1st.

The Arguments For

Kris Russell has been a strong defender for the Edmonton Oilers. While injured, Edmonton played some of its worst hockey and he was clearly missed. He's playing the second-most minutes on the Oilers' blue line and he's leading the team in blocked shots; while being fifth in the NHL among defensemen in that category. He provides the Oilers will an experienced NHL option on defense. These are all good things.

The Arguments Against

By extending Russell, the Oilers would need to make a future trade if they don't believe the core of Andrej Sekera, Kris Russell, Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson are enough to contend when the games really count. There is a legit argument to be made that this top-four is good, but not good enough and that it lacks a true top-tier defender.

The other problem is what adding another contracted defensemen does to the Oilers' future plans come the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft. Russell under contract changes the perspective on whom the Oilers should protect and the best ways to go about doing so. Signing Russell is virtual writing on the wall for a future loss that could mean a lot more to the Oilers future.

My Take

Sign Russell if you want. Just wait. There is so little suggesting that now is a good time to do so and that past history of extending players early hasn't gone well for the Oilers that it makes more sense to give Russell a full season to prove his worth. It also makes more sense to have everything planned to the letter in preparation for the expansion draft.

The Oilers look good on paper, but at this moment in time aren't even a playoff team. If you commit to this top four on your blue line and it turns out it wasn't quite enough to get you to the promise land this season, then you're stuck for next season and other seasons where you potentially have an asset you signed too early and now can't move.

If you have faith in Oilers-GM Peter Chiarelli, then you have to hope he knows something we don't or has another plan up his sleeve. If not, this move seems illogical at best.

But, who cares what I think right? For now, I'll just keep my mouth shut until I feel like spilling my guts again.

Jim Parsons is a business owner, husband, father and sports fan. For more information about founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.

Want to start spilling your sports gut? We're looking for writers. Go here.

Edmonton Oilers Hidden Gems on the Fourth

When you have potentially the best player in hockey on your team, it's easy to let the little things go unnoticed. Connor McDavid is so fun to watch that almost all eyes are drawn to him. Last night's game against the Arizona Coyotes reminded fans that this version of the Edmonton Oilers isn't just one person.

Zack Kassian

It's tricky to describe in one word what the resurgence of Kassian means to the Edmonton Oilers. Perhaps the folks from Twitter can do a better job than I.

Kassian's play has been everything any fan could have hoped for as an Oilers fan. After years of watching their beloved Oilers get pushed around and manhandled by bigger teams, Kassian has found a home on this Oilers team and his timing is impeccable. He's engaged every game, he's physical, has skill and stands up for his teammates. The game against Arizona was the Zack Kassian show and it was fun to watch.

On Wednesday, he had an assist, should have had a goal and dropped his gloves ready for any comers after he blasted Ekman-Larsson for rubbing out Matt Hendricks. The look on his face was one of pure determination — as if to say with is eyes, "If you are going to try and play physical with my guys, I'm going to make you pay for it." He has only two goals on the season, but he should have five.

That the Oilers picked him up in a trade that sent goaltender Ben Scrivens to Montreal makes adding him even sweeter. Scrivens is long out of the NHL, but Kassian is starting to show that perhaps his career is just on its second wind.

Mark Letestu

Letestu has been something of a blessing. Last season there were folks who'd suggested that he wasn't necessarily a great hire by Oilers-GM Peter Chiarelli. Those folks aren't saying much anymore.

With seven goals and 17 points in 32 games, Letestu would be on pace for over 40 points in an 82-game season. That's amazing considering he was never signed to be anything more than a fourth-line energy player who could win a couple faceoffs.

He's playing short-handed, he's now turned the Oilers power play into a weapon and he's reliable at key moments in the game. He's the epitome of the depth forward in the NHL and he's providing nothing but value for the Oilers.

Matt Hendricks

Hendricks is a bit unique to this group as his career is on the back nine and this could likely be his last year as an Oiler. If he stays, it will be due to his leadership skills and never quit attitude which is clearly rubbing off on this Oilers team. If he stays, it will also be at a significant discount over this current salary.

Last night it was fun to see Hendricks score. He's had a rough season having missed the first chunk due to injury and with so much depth on this team, Hendricks may be in tough to find a regular role here going forward. That said, if this fourth line continues to have the success it's been having over the last couple games, there's absolutely no reason to make a change.

McDavid Creates Challenges For Referees

McDavid isn't just a special player when it comes to fans. His speed, skill and leadership draws the attention of opposing players and coaches. Coaches like Bruce Boudreau, Ken Hitchcock and Mike Babcock have all praised his performances and admired what he brings to the Edmonton Oilers. Some have publicly come out and thanked their lucky stars that McDavid didn't have a better performance when playing against their team.

Something is going on the NHL and for Edmonton Oilers fans, it's something they're starting to get frustrated with. McDavid has been the topic of a few debates, most of them centered around the fact that calls from the referees are not going his way.

The Rules

Some will call it whining when fans complain that their players aren't getting the calls. In this case, fans aren't asking for special treatment. Most are simply calling for the rules to be called as they're written. Lately, that hasn't been the case.

Take for example the Oilers recent game against St. Louis. The Oilers ended up squeaking out a victory — winning in overtime — but prior to getting there, McDavid had a breakaway in which it's clear that there were at least two slashes and one potential hook by Alex Pietrangelo. No call of any kind was awarded to McDavid and the Oilers and it was obvious if not a penalty, the argument could have been made McDavid should have been awarded a penalty shot.

The non-call by the referees in that situation was embarrassing for the NHL. I'm sure the league doesn't want its officials blowing calls so badly. Doing so limits scoring, it detracts from things like penalty shots, which is great for the league and overall it simply unfair to a team that could have lost the game with a bounce that might have gone the wrong way later in the game.

Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid (97) bleeds from the lip after a high stick (Jason Franson/CP)

Why Did It Happen?

The question is, why does something like this happen? How does a play so clearly a penalty get missed by the referees when anyone, even those in the nosebleeds, can see the infraction? My take is pretty simple and it's the same as some with a lot more inside hockey knowledge than I.

Connor McDavid is so dynamic and fun to watch, that not only do players, coaches and fans get caught bewildered by his talent, so do the referees. David Staples put a sample of some of the most egregious plays against McDavid that resulted in no call.

Sometimes when you have a player who can do one hundred things 99 percent of the rest of league can't do, people want to see how the play ends up. When McDavid was on a breakaway in this situation, is it possible that the ref Chris Lee didn't make the call because he wanted to see if McDavid could fight off the play and score anyways? I think that's not only possible; but probable.

NHL Superstars

McDavid isn't the only player in the NHL that might have this issue. The league is full of young talent now that has skills like never before. Auston Matthews, Johhny Gaudreau and others make the life of a referee more difficult.

Should these stars get calls that other players don't get because, by the nature of their talent, they'll draw more penalties? There has always been an unwritten rule that the "new guys" don't get the calls the veterans do. They haven't earned the trust of the refs. Would calling so many penalties be looked at as a bias for the young stars that are now dominating the game?

The argument is that not calling these penalties hurts the NHL. This is a league that badly wants its stars to shine. Players like McDavid are a major reason the NHL is so profitable. Not calling these obvious penalties hurts the excitement of the game.

The Answer

The NHL needs to have a conference with its referees and simply remind them to call the game by the rules. Don't give advantages to superstars because they are superstars. At the same time, don't avoid making a call because the superstar has more talent and can fight through more than the average player.

Most importantly, when you're officiating a game where one of the best players in the game is part of the contest, don't get caught watching how dynamic he is. Understand that at least once or twice in a game a player like McDavid will "wow" everyone in the building. As a referee, you have to take awe in that moment after the play has ended and not during. Referees are human and sometimes what McDavid can do seems inhuman. Still, refs need to stay grounded and remember a rule is a rule no matter who it's called for or against.

But, who cares what I think right? For now, I'll just keep my mouth shut until I feel like spilling my guts again.

Jim Parsons is a business owner, husband, father and sports fan. For more information about founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.

Want to start spilling your sports gut? We're looking for writers. Go here.

Edmonton Oilers: Eberle and the Rotating Right-Wingers

On Saturday, Jordan Eberle will be back on the top line with Connor McDavid and Milan Lucic. It was this trio that started the season and the line the coaches had hoped would lead Edmonton on most nights in their search for consistent offense. The results, unfortunately, have not been consistent and mostly due to chemistry and the scoring inability of Jordan Eberle.

Scoring wingers can be streaky. That comes with the territory. Eberle has 23 points in 32 games and is on pace for 58 points. That total is actually not terribly far off from his regular season averages. The problem is, he has only 8 goals in that time. This would equal the lowest goal total of his NHL career (since his rookie year) at 20. A player who is supposed to be top line and worth $6 million needs to score more.

In his absence (I say absence because there have been games Eberle has been completely invisible), the Oilers have tried almost everything. They've given shots to third-line players like Zack Kassian and experimented with depth forwards like Tyler Pitlick. The Oilers have moved up rookies like Jesse Puljujarvi and tried out recently demoted wingers like Anton Slepyshev. Nothing has stuck.

The closest to a win on McDavid's wing may have been Leon Draisaitl — a natural center —  but the Oilers aren't keen on keeping Draisaitl on the wing, seeing as how he's driving the play and scoring despite not playing with the Oilers' superstar.

Eberle Needs to Make it Work

Jordan Eberle needs to get going. Perhaps more importantly, he needs to click with McDavid. Coincidentally, Eberle's best chance to get out of this slump is to play with the best player on the team. To go night in and night out with a player that will hold him accountable and wants to win, score and succeed will be good for Eberle's consistency.

The good news is, Eberle already knows how to play with McDavid. While Eberle isn't the fastest skater, he's got experience working with McDavid's all-world speed, What can be added is a willingness for Eberle to do what brought him to the dance. This includes shooting more, finding his scoring chances and being aggressive. He's trending down in every single one of those regards and this is a problem, especially considering the Oilers have no better options.

And, If He Can't?

If Eberle can't get on track, the Oilers may look to do something unique. Taylor Beck was just recalled from the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL. If the Oilers choose to give Beck a shot, it would mean another experiment on right wing, but it would also mean taking the leading AHL scorer and putting him with the leading NHL scorer. I'm not sure if and when that's ever been done before.

As unique and interesting as that story would be, it probably isn't the ideal scenario for the Oilers. Edmonton would rather not have to rely on a player who was just in the AHL to come up with mandatory offense for them in the NHL. If Eberle could turn the corner and get himself on a streak here, he'll also be helping out his fellow wingers (like Beck) by allowing them to play in positions they are more suited for.

Out of His Comfort Zone

One of the things Eberle should try doing is expanding his comfort zone. That means becoming more than a one-dimensional player. Unlike a player like McDavid, who will go straight forward, challenging the defense, Eberle shows a consistent willingness to circle back and restart the play. It's not fair to suggest Eberle emulate McDavid, who clearly has more speed and skill on the rush, but with a little urgency, Eberle could draw penalties, crash the net and make things uncomfortable for the defense.

Coach Todd McLellan once told Leon Draisaitl he was a good hockey player. That instead of defaulting to McDavid all the time, Draisaitl needed to play like he knew he was a good hockey player. This may be good advice for a player like Eberle.

Perhaps he needs reminding of his skill level and his ability to score. Perhaps he could be a bit more bull-headed and make that play he's otherwise afraid to make in this drought. Edmonton can't keep rotating wingers forever. Someone needs to stick and that someone should be Jordan Eberle.

But, who cares what I think right? For now, I'll just keep my mouth shut until I feel like spilling my guts again.

Jim Parsons is a business owner, husband, father and sports fan. For more information about founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.

Want to start spilling your sports gut? We're looking for writers. Go here.

Is Klefbom and the Surrounding Defensive Cast Enough?

Jason Gregor and Ryan Rishaug had an interesting conversation today regarding the Edmonton Oilers and their defensive core. The basis of the discussion revolved around Oscar Klefbom and whether or not he was a top-pair defenseman.

Rishaug didn't think Klefbom — or potentially any defenseman on the Oilers right now — had the stuff to be a top-pairing lefty. Gregor wasn't 100% sure suggesting some defensemen take longer than others to develop into that role. Both agreed that if the Oilers didn't have a true number-one lefty, they needed to get one.

That leads us to two questions. First, are they correct in their assessment? Is the Oilers defense enough to not just be competitive, but actually win a playoff series or two? If not, what should the Oilers do to create a team that can?

Klefbom As a 3 or 4

Klefbom will likely battle it out for the lead on the Edmonton Oilers in points this season from the blue line. He's one point behind Andrej Sekera with 12 points. He's also struggled with inconsistency.

If you don't count Connor McDavid, Klefbom has, on certain nights, been one of the Oilers best players. Then on other nights, he's been poor. He's found himself in the doghouse on numerous occasions and been demoted from the top-pair when he's leaving big gaps and letting players walk around him. He's looked like a defenseman that can do almost anything and he's look defeated. Does all this mean he's not a number one?

The real question is, was he ever?

It's easy to forget that Klefbom is only 23-years-old and has only played in 139 NHL games. As Dale Tallon used to say, you can't tell what you have in a defenseman until they are 300 games into their career. Klefbom isn't even half- way there yet.

The Oilers badly wanted Adam Larsson and Oscar Klefbom to be the answer on Edmonton's top-pair. That's a duo with less than 450 NHL games combined. It's a lot to ask and sometimes they look like they can be that good. Other times, it's clear their development isn't at the point where Edmonton can rely on them every game. Larsson seems to have fewer peaks and valley's than Klefbom does, but the pairing is definitely a work in progress.

So Now What?

If it is determined that Klefbom is a wonderful second-pair defenseman, but not a great first-pairing option, what do the Oilers do? It's rare for a team to trade for or acquire via free agency a true top-pair left-handed defenseman. Edmonton will have to get lucky or give up a huge peice.

The alternative is to draft and develop that player. Perhaps the Oilers have already done so. Could the Oilers already have that guy in Darnell Nurse?

The Present 

It's way too soon to tell exactly what the Oilers top-four is and could become. In the absence of certainty, perhaps the Oilers intend to win by committee.

The thinking could be, with one of the best players in the world (McDavid), a strong goaltender (Talbot) and a well-rounded group of 3's and 4's on defense, it's enough to get them into the playoffs and perhaps win a round. Maybe for this year, the goal is to simply be competitive.

But, being competitive and being a championship caliber team are not the same thing. Eventually, that's where the Oilers need and want to get. Another 30 games into the season and the team may have a better handle on what their next move should be. It will be interesting to watch what happens if they deem Klefbom unworthy of the role.

But, who cares what I think right? For now, I'll just keep my mouth shut until I feel like spilling my guts again.

Jim Parsons is a business owner, husband, father and sports fan. For more information about founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.

Want to start spilling your sports gut? We're looking for writers. Go here.

Former Oilers Shining: Oilers Fault or Just Bad Luck?

It's not uncommon for players to move on from a team and find better success elsewhere. Sometimes a fresh start, a new coach or new surroundings can be enough to spark a player. Sometimes all it takes is a bit more experience and aging. Sometimes it's the former team that stifles the player and getting out from under the issue leads to a blossoming career.

Something is happening with a number of former Oilers and not all fans are finding they are liking what they see.

Bob Stauffer spoke at length with NHL Network's Mike Johnson on the topic and a fellow writer of mine at Marcy Di Michele had a very interesting take on the topic. I thought it was a great piece and liked the idea. My take is below. I've also added a player I felt was a real loss to the Oilers in Andrew Cogliano.

Photo By Lisa Gansky

My Take:

It's a shame when we can't be happy for the success of others. That's like getting divorced or breaking up with an ex and then hoping they stay miserable long after you and they had your time in the sun. You should be happy, they should be happy and life goes on. The same goes for former players on your favorite sports teams. If someone leaves and they find success, good for them.

Still, seeing someone find success when they couldn't with your franchise doesn't mean it doesn't hurt a little from time to time or that the Oilers are to blame. The following players seem to be the focus of most who have a take on the topic. 

I think, more than anything, timing played the largest factor to each players changes of fortune.

Justin Schultz

The first, and probably loudest example, is Justin Schultz. Not only did he move on from the Oilers, but he went to a Stanley Cup winning team in Pittsburgh, got resigned and is now tearing it up this season. He's doing so on a very reasonable one-year contract. This one stings for many Oilers fans who boo and have a hard time watching Schultz excel, simply because Schultz could have been successful here if only deployed in the right way.

Schultz became part of the Oilers organization after a free agency bidding war. He opted not to return to Anaheim, chose Edmonton over a plethora of teams and was highly-touted as a winning "get" for Edmonton. The only problem was, he never came to be the player that everyone expected. That wasn't really his fault.

Most of this stems from the fact that he was placed by the Oilers in a role that he wasn't suited. In Pittsburgh, Schultz is a third-pairing blueliner and he's played that way. The Oilers popped him on their first or second pair and hoped he'd solve all their problems on defense. That's because they had no one better. Schultz still has deficiencies in his game, they just get covered properly when deployed in the right situations.

In Edmonton, every mistake — even the ones he still makes in Pittsburgh — were exponentially worse because he made them against the best of the best in the NHL. When you're a third-pairing defenseman (like he is with the Pens), mistakes against bottom-six forwards don't always wind up in the back of your net. Against the teams highest quality of competition, they often do.

We're about to find out if Schultz's game has really changed because he'll be taking on a larger role in the absence of recently injured Kris Letang. If he continues to do well, it will be nice to see.

Sam Gagner

How can you not love what's happening with Sam Gagner right now? You'd have to be heartless not to be happy for his success. Gagner was not only steps away from potentially being out of the NHL, but he took a position in Columbus on the bottom line hoping for one more opportunity to prove he had what it took to be in the NHL.

Gagner was drafted sixth overall by the Oilers in 2007. He was pushed immediately into the NHL as an 18-year-old and it wasn't his lack of size, speed or skill that stunted his growth. He simply wasn't prepared for what was going to be asked of him.

Despite this fact, Gagner still found success in his rookie year. He had 49 points (the most he over put together as an Oiler) and found lightning in a bottle on the latest incarnation of the "kid line" alongside Robert Nilsson and Andrew Cogliano. After that, things went downhill.

Sure, Ganger had some very shining moments (including an 8-point performance against the Blackhawks), but when Gagner finally moved on, it was time and for not much return. He bounced around the NHL and AHL in Arizona, Philadelphia and finally Columbus. The Blue Jackets signing wasn't a sure thing, but they took a chance in the right role, he's excelling.

Gagner now has 21 points in 26 games and 12 of those points are goals. He's playing on the third line most nights, but he's getting power play time and important pressure situations in which to show his stuff. It's been a perfect fit.

This one isn't as painful for Oiler fans because a few teams gave up on Gagner before he found success. But, Edmonton perhaps could have used a decent third-line center this season and Gagner was definitely available.

Devan Dubnyk

Again, you have to feel good for Dubnyk's success. He was another player who almost found himself wondering if he was going to keep employment in the NHL and wound up shining in Minnesota where he is now one of the NHL's best goaltenders.

Dubnyk at one time was Edmonton's new first-string goaltender. He was a long-time prospect who was turning into something special. Then, and he'll be the first to admit it, Dubnyk forgot how to play the net. The Oilers gave him a number of opportunities, but he simply couldn't find his game.

When he was traded to Nashville for Matt Hendricks, it was seen as a pretty good deal for Edmonton. Not long after Dubnyk went to the Preds, he left and then coach Barry Trotz was kind, but clearly frustrated with the tendencies of the goalie he'd acquired. A lot of this may have been on Edmonton, who potentially goalie coached the success out of Dubnyk and sent him onward.

Dubnyk bounced to Montreal and Arizona and finally found himself in Minnesota. Since arriving there, he's been a different player. He's been one of the best goalies in the league. It's a bitter pill to swallow, but not as bitter now that Edmonton seems to have found a strong starter in Cam Talbot.

Despite Dubnyk being the one player Edmonton may have mis-coached, he hasn't had a single bad word to say about the Oilers and it makes his success even more gratifying for fans who wanted him to do well.

Andrew Cogliano

Frankly, it's impossible to dislike Andrew Cogliano. He's the NHL's current ironman streak leader having not missed a game in his career. He was an exciting player to watch, scored multiple late-game and overtime goals for the Oilers and shined in Anaheim after Edmonton tossed him aside.

Cogliano was never a first-line player. He probably wasn't a second-line center either. That didn't stop the Oilers from trying him there and it was mainly because they had no other options. When your team isn't good, players get slotted in the wrong places and this described Cogliano's time in Edmonton to a tee.

He's gone on to become one of Anaheim's best depth forwards.

Whose Fault Is It?

There is one thing many of these examples all have one thing in common. They were played in Edmonton well out of position. I don't believe it was because the Oilers wanted to, but had to.

Of course, for every Gagner, Cogliano, Schultz or Dubnyk, there is a Nail Yakupov, Jeff Petry or others who have struggled in other locations. Some have done well, but at a high cost to their new team. Not all players who leave an organization find the grass is greener on the other side and not all teams who take on these players hit a home run.

For some reason, it seems to happen in Edmonton more than most that players move on and do fairly well. At least it feels that way. Hard to say, but when your team struggles, the success found by former players has a bit of sting to it.

All that said, I don't think this is Edmonton's fault more than it was a set of circumstances that led to the improper deployment of players. In the end, you have to be proud for other players who find success elsewhere. It's the nature of the beast that it will happen and these players are likely all pretty good guys doing what they can in their current situations.

But, who cares what I think right? For now, I'll just keep my mouth shut until I feel like spilling my guts again.

Jim Parsons is a business owner, husband, father and sports fan. For more information about founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.

Want to start spilling your sports gut? We're looking for writers. Go here.

Taylor Beck Recalled to the Oilers

There wasn't much noise made of the Taylor Beck signing by the Edmonton Oilers this summer, but that hasn't stopped Beck from becoming the AHL's leading scorer. So, it's no surprise that on Thursday, the Edmonton Oilers recalled Beck to the NHL and he'll get an opportunity to translate hs AHL success to the NHL.

This comes right around the same time as the Oilers have demoted Anton Slepyshev to Bakersfield.

Who Is Taylor Beck? 

Taylor Beck is 25-years-old and is a right-shooting winger. He's got some experience in the NHL having played with Nashville and while the Oilers are looking to find chemistry with the NHL's leading scorer Connor McDavid, Beck may get a look if players like Jordan Eberle, Drake Caggiula, Tyler Pitlick or Zack Kassian continue to not cash-in playing alongside the NHL's most dynamic player.

Beck has 30 points in 19 games in Bakersfield. He has 9 of the 55 goals the Condors have scored so far this year.

NHL Duty 

Beck has had some issues translating his AHL success to the NHL in the past, but there are a lot of good hockey people who are saying nice things about him as a player. Former coach Barry Trotz, who had Beck in Nashville, is among them:

"Taylor is a big body who has crossed the threshold [in his career]," Trotz said. "I believe he's a good prospect for us with a solid game. To me, he's the guy getting no attention who is a heck of a hockey player."

Will Beck see game action right away? He may get a chance to practice with the team first, but with the amount of rest the Oilers are finally getting, he could come in for Jesse Puljujarvi who continues to struggle.

Nurse to Miss 12 Weeks. Best Timing?

If Darnell Nurse is going to miss 12 weeks, this might be the best time, if there ever was a good one. Nurse alongside Matt Benning have arguably been Edmonton's biggest progression success stories this season. Nurse not on the blue line will be a loss and it's a bad news situation that his injury was worse than expected. He really was coming on strong in his second full season.

It was announced today that Nurse underwent surgery on his ankle and would miss a significant amount of time while he heals up. With three goals and five points in a mostly bottom-pairing role, Nurse was providing both depth and flexibility as a rough, tough and physical presence. Fortunately, bad news comes with good news.

Brandon Davidson

The good news is Davidson is near returning. He'll likely slot in right where Nurse was. Tuesday against a very strong Columbus team, the Oilers will need the defensive depth.

Once Davidson gets reacquainted, he may move up in the ranks of the defense quickly. 

Eric Gryba

The Oilers will also have Gryba ready to make his return in the next few games. Gryba will stay a depth defenseman for the Oilers, but I still contend that he never gets enough credit for the defensive minutes he provides the Oilers. Having him back will be a blessing as well.

It's a blow that Nurse is down for any length of time, but I suppose, if you're going to miss games, miss games when the rest of the team is healthy.

But, who cares what I think right? For now, I'll just keep my mouth shut until I feel like spilling my guts again.

Jim Parsons is a business owner, husband, father and sports fan. For more information about founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.

Want to start spilling your sports gut? We're looking for writers. Go here.

McDavid Blasts Brandon Manning Post-Game

Following Thursday's loss to the Flyers, Connor McDavid didn't hold back after finding out that the apparently unintentional tripping that caused him to miss three months last season wasn't, after all, unintentional. Manning suggested during the game that he intended to trip McDavid and the result was a very distraught Oilers captain, who had a lot to say both during and after the game.

The often bland and subdued McDavid was emotional and to the point, calling Manning classless and unwilling to stand up to McDavid and his teammates.

Manning has of course denied saying such things. Admitting so would be a terrible career move. Instead, he's opted to rebut McDavid's comments telling media that McDavid chirped the Flyers bench all night and had some sort of vendetta against him for something that was clearly an accident.

McDavid didn't specify on the comments themselves, but whatever was said, must have been enough to get under the skin of the often calm and unwavering superstar. Nazem Kadri was all over McDavid earlier this year and the result was not a peep from the McDavid camp. This was not that McDavid.

The next meeting between these two teams should lead to fireworks.

The World Weighs In

When things like this happen in hockey, people will take a side. There are a lot of folks today calling McDavid a whiner and a privileged crybaby. Those people are mostly not Oiler fans. They are comparing him to Sidney Crosby, another superstar who gets targeted a lot by other players and often has a lot to say to opponents and referees on and off the ice.

Others are glad to see McDavid isn't holding back and finally coming out of his shell. He's becoming a much more vocal leader who wears his heart on his sleeve and speaks his mind. The quiet McDavid was anything but quiet.on Thursday and former players like Wayne Gretzky don't mind one bit.

An Unfortunate Situation

While entertaining, whatever was said and McDavid's response are unfortunate. It shows that players like McDavid are still the target of others and that in targeting them, players like Manning will step over the line, putting the NHL's superstars at risk. To hear that they may be doing so intentionally is bad for the league.

With the rule changes that don't allow players to police themselves and take care of business, this is a trend that will likely get worse before it gets better.

But, who cares what I think right? For now, I'll just keep my mouth shut until I feel like spilling my guts again.

Jim Parsons is a business owner, husband, father and sports fan. For more information about founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.

Want to start spilling your sports gut? We're looking for writers. Go here.

The Expansion Draft Changes Contract Extensions

I wrote an earlier piece about how the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft may change the way the Edmonton Oilers approach any potential trades this season. I suggested that the Oilers would need to consider what contracts they'd be bringing in and that any terms longer than ones ending this year, could be counter-productive considering they stand to lose those players in expansion or must alter their protected list as a result.

You can see that post here.

It sparked some interesting discussion on Facebook in that there is some uncertainty as to how the rules of trading for players by Las Vegas will affect who is actually still eligible to be drafted. If there is truth to the news that if Vegas makes a trade for a player, that team from which that player arrives will no longer be eligible as a draft accessible team. It opens up the possibility for some very creative managing.


What isn't affected by this potential detail are contract extensions. Any team that extends a player during the season, would then have to consider how it affects their protected list. Case in point would be the Oilers and Kris Russell. Scott Oake of Rogers Sportsnet made a comment during a Hockey Night in Canada broadcast that the Oilers and Russell were working on a way to keep Russell in Edmonton.

“He’s played so well here that resigning him would seem to be a priority, otherwise Russell becomes a free agent again this coming summer. There’s also a chance Edmonton could lose him in Vegas expansion draft. But what the Oilers have going for him is Russell is an Alberta boy, a genuine cowboy from Caroline, who plays his best hockey in his home province…The expectation there is a deal to be made with Russel here.”

For the most part, I'm sure many fans would like to see Russell extended if the terms are right. However, extending Russell now changes the dynamic of which defensemen the Oilers can protect come expansion.

If Edmonton signs Russell, they would likely want to protect him. That leaves exposed either Adam Larsson or Oscar Klefbom if the Oilers stick with the 7-3-1 position protection plan that works the most in their favor (Oilers are forced to protect Sekera). Seven forwards, three defensemen and a goaltender allow the Oilers to protect the highest quantity of players. If the Oilers then have to protect four blue-liners, a good forward will be exposed.


Could the Oilers work out a deal with the Vegas Golden Knights to swing a trade prior to the expansion, making it so that Edmonton isn't one of the teams Vegas selects from? If the news and rumors about the draft are correct, possibly.

Edmonton might ship a pick and a player to Vegas for a pick in return and while they give up an asset or lose that trade, take themselves out of the running to lose a player via the draft. The trick will be to convince Vegas that this is something that benefits the Golden Knights.

Where the Oilers will have room for extensions is in the forward position. Right now, with the 7-3-1 rule and should Edmonton stick to a list that includes players like Tyler Pitlick, they could extend Pitlick without worry of losing him or putting another player at risk.

There will be some interesting maneuvering that goes on in the final months of the season and just before the expansion. One thing that seems certain, is that if Edmonton extends Kris Russell between January and before the expansion draft, another move is required to keep the defensive core together.

But, who cares what I think right? For now, I'll just keep my mouth shut until I feel like spilling my guts again.

Jim Parsons is a business owner, husband, father and sports fan. For more information about founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.

Want to start spilling your sports gut? We're looking for writers. Go here.

McDavid Angry, But NHL's Concussion Protocol Working

If you watched the Edmonton Oilers versus the Minnesota Wild game on Sunday, you likely witnessed a trend that is going to play a continued role in future NHL games. That trend is the NHL's concussion spotters making a decision and the response being frustrated professional hockey players. It's a dichotomy that will likely last as long as there are risks to player safety, but in the end, these spotters are merely doing what they're supposed to do.

In this case, protocol said to pull a player off the ice to potentially protect him from himself. That player was Connor McDavid. The normally subdued and very professional Oilers' captain, laughed off the referees when the decision was made and it was obvious McDavid was annoyed. Perhaps, from McDavid's point of view, he may have had an argument. At the end of the day, does it matter?

The Specifics

Near the end of the second period, McDavid was tripped by Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon and wound up banging his chin pretty hard in Sunday's contest. He grabbed his mouth, got up and seemed fine, but concussion spotters made a different call. Not long after the incident, it was determined McDavid may have hit his head harder than he should have and the specific concussion crew who witnessed the incident called the on-ice officials and forced McDavid out of the game until he was medically cleared to return.

Whether you agree or disagree with the call, this is the job assigned to these spotters. It is the purpose of the mandated concussion protocol. On Sunday, the NHL and their new concussion initiative did the correct thing.


Edmonton's Reaction

Not everyone agreed. McDavid clearly didn't like the call. His team was going to have a two-man powerplay and being forced into the locker room meant he wouldn't be able to contribute to the Oilers potentially taking advantage. Patrick Maroon was also very vocal on the topic. He took advantage of an opportunity given him by Sportsnet's Mark Spector to speak his mind:
'This is a man's game... People are going to get hit, get high-sticked. They're going to go through the middle and get hit. That's part of hockey, and that's why we have all this gear that protects us. Yes, if someone gets seriously hurt, we're concerned. But he just fell, got tripped. I just don't get it.

The Player's Argument

For McDavid, what he felt was probably equivalent to receiving a punch in the jaw from a fist made of ice. Maroon is correct in that professional hockey players have likely felt worse. McDavid knew it was no big deal, teammates like Maroon probably knew he was fine, but the protocol said that the best medicine was caution. Isn't that the point?

Players want to play. It irritates them when someone who can't possibly know how they feel tells them they're not in a position to make that call for themselves. That said, the players are often not the best judge of right and wrong in these cases. The new rules are in place to protect players. Sometimes these players need it.

The NHL's concussion initiative started last season. It was used a few times, but not terribly often. Now that players, coaches and management are aware of the systems and protocols, players should be more accustomed to how the process works. Short-term, these decisions may not be popular. They might even cost a team an opportunity to win a game. Long-term, they have the potential to save someone's career.

The result of the debate is that NHL concussion crews and the decisions they make often come with some controversy. The NHL seems ok with that.

The NHL's Argument

The NHL will argue that when concussion protocol works likes it's supposed to, it's inevitable the players will be upset. The process catches incidences where the players and coaches don't. Because McDavid came back in the third period and because the Oilers lost in overtime on Sunday, the loss was in many ways blamed on a mere few minutes. The topic caught fire and on Monday and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly addressed the situation.

Daly told TSN that he was fine with the spotters and how they have conducted themselves this year. “We have no intention of changing the standards that are employed based on the situation in the game or season,” Daly said.

Daly later admitted that the process is a work in progress, but overall the NHL is happy with how the protocol is working. He added, “It’s always better to err on the side of caution.”

It's not often I agree with things the NHL does. And yes, I was upset to see McDavid not a part of the 5-on-3 powerplay. But, long-term, I'd rather watch an NHL that looks after every player when they feel the player may not look after themselves. After an NHL player's career is over, there is daily life to worry about. Players may not care in the heat of the moment. It's natural, but it's not the right thing.

Right or wrong, someone else has to make the calls that players won't.

But, who cares what I think right? For now, I'll just keep my mouth shut until I feel like spilling my guts again.

Jim Parsons is a business owner, husband, father and sports fan. For more information about founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.

Want to start spilling your sports gut? We're looking for writers. Go here.

Oilers Go as the Power Play Goes

It was finally nice to say the Edmonton Oilers won on Thursday. After the Oilers lost three consecutive games to very beatable teams, things were starting to look a little bleak in "Oil Country" With the win, Edmonton avoided potentially dropping in the Pacific Division standings and steered clear of being outside the playoff picture for the first time this season.

In the victory, Edmonton's recipe for success can be attributed to four main ingredients. The first three are players, in that, Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Mark Letestu had incredible games. The fourth is those three players' success on the power play. Edmonton's man-advantage was 3 for 4 on the night and the power play finally became a weapon in the Oilers arsenal.

The Man-Advantage

When the Oilers are successful on the man-advantage, the team tends to win. Of the nine games in which the Oilers have scored a power play goal, Edmonton has won eight of them. Of the 16 games where they did not score a power play goal, Edmonton has lost eleven of them. It is absolutely not a coincidence that Edmonton loses games when their power play isn't effective.

In those games, it's not as though the Oilers didn't get their chances. Every one of those 12 Oilers losses came with an opportunity on the man-advantage. All of the games, with the exception of two, came with more than one opportunity to score. To put it another way, the Oilers went 0-42 in the games that they lost. When the team goes 0-3, 0-4 and 0-6 in a single game, they are just giving away points in the standings. In a number of those games, even one goal would have dramatically changed the outcome.

Opportunities Wasted

One of the ways this Oilers team is going to ultimately find the playoffs is by forcing opposing teams to take penalties. Using their speed and skill to draw opponents into shortcuts and infractions, should give Edmonton the leg up. It is one of the weapons the Oilers have and should use on a nightly basis. Frankly, while it isn't exciting hockey, there is nothing wrong with getting your opponents to hold and hook themselves out of a victory.

However, when Edmonton can't take advantage of any penalties they draw, it allows teams to cut corners in their defensive systems. Edmonton's opponents are no longer afraid of the consequences of getting caught being the rules.

For an Oilers team that employs McDavid, Draisaitl, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as offensive quarterbacks, there is no excuse to at least get set up on the attack. The Oilers haven't been strong in that regard at all. So too, there should be no reason that once establishing the zone, with players like Milan Lucic and Patrick Maroon parking in front of the net, Edmonton can't score greasy goals and on rebound opportunities.

The one and only area where the Oilers may have a legitimate beef, is the team's lack of a shot from the point. Edmonton simply does not have that bullet in the chamber and management hasn't provided the coaching staff with a player who can pose a threat from that part of the ice.

Can It Be Fixed?

Clearly, the Oilers think so. Ryan Rishaug of TSN described some of the changes the Oilers were working on with their power play. He briefly outlines an Edmonton team that has put a lot of time into improving a clear weakness and part of the solution meant developing a different setup, using different players. 

So far, the changes seem to be working. For a change, the Oilers looked like a well-oiled machine Thursday. Adding Letestu helped tremendously and the positive results meant Draisaitl stayed one of Edmonton's top go-to players. It's a formula McLellan will go to again.

Can the Oilers keep it going? If Edmonton expects to beat Anaheim on Saturday, they'd better hope so. The Oilers clearly go as their power play goes. When it's clicking, Edmonton tends to win. When it isn't, the Oilers are in for a long night.

But, who cares what I think right? For now, I'll just keep my mouth shut until I feel like spilling my guts again.

Jim Parsons is a business owner, husband, father and sports fan. For more information about founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.

Want to start spilling your sports gut? We're looking for writers. Go here.

How Dangerous is the Oilers New Third Line?

The Edmonton Oilers posted their projected lineup for tonight's game against Arizona and it's one of the stronger lineups Edmonton has iced all season.

This is no knock on Anton Slepyshev who has played extremely well for the Oilers since being promoted. That said, this set of 12 forwards could be Edmonton's strongest to date. It brings back Mark Letestu and Benoit Pouliot, both of whom deserve to be in the lineup.

It also sits Matt Hendricks who made his return a few games back but hasn't exactly found his groove. He's going to get a chance to rest and watch. Pouliot, who was scratched as a result of the combination of some poor decisions and some returning players, slots back into the lineup with something to prove on the third line.

Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The Third Line

It's Edmonton's third line of Pouliot, Leon Draisaitl and Drake Caggiula that has me the most intrigued. This is a mix-match of skill, size, power, two-way hockey sense and experience. Pouliot, in particular, is a better hockey player than he's shown to date this season.

Can Pouliot find a player with whom he has some chemistry? Is that player the powerful and productive Draisaitl? Leon has 16 points in 21 games and eight points in his last five. Meanwhile, Caggiula has two assists in his three games for Edmonton this season and has the speed and skill to make this a potent group.

All three have the ability to create a cycle and hold possession. It should make it interesting in a match-up tonight against an Arizona squad that doesn't have three lines that can match the three Edmonton could ice at any given moment.


Edmonton heads into Arizona having won three in a row. The Coyotes on the other hand have struggled. Now 6-10-2, this "should" be a contest that favours the Oilers. I say should because Arizona's record against the Oilers of late is staggering. Arizona has a point in every game against the Oilers for 23 straight games. They are 24-1-4 in their last 29 games.

The biggest factor will be the Oilers ability to draw penalties and capitalize on them. Arizona has the fourth best penalty kill in the NHL at home, but the Oilers power play is clicking. If Edmonton can manage the status quo, they'll be good. If for some reason they regress into the power play that went 0-for-12, they could have some trouble.

This is the first of five games this season against the Coyotes and starting off on the right foot is paramount to setting the tone in this series.

But, who cares what I think right? For now, I'll just keep my mouth shut until I feel like spilling my guts again.

Jim Parsons is a business owner, husband, father and sports fan. For more information about founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.

Want to start spilling your sports gut? We're looking for writers. Go here.

The Expansion Draft Changes Trade Plans During the Season

With the Las Vegas Golden Knights finally announcing their franchise name, a whole new explosion of articles on the expansion draft have popped up, most of them dealing with whom the Oilers will protect on their roster. One of the topics that rarely seems to come up as often, is what the Oilers do, management wise until that expansion draft takes place.

Below are a few things to consider if you're GM Peter Chiarelli when it comes to trades. (In future posts, we'll take a look at other transactions like extensions and free agent signings.)

Trade Buyer or Seller?

The Oilers look like they may be headed to the playoffs for the first time in a long time. Yes, I know that the season is still young, but this team looks like a team that could obtain one of those eight Western Conference spots. As the Oilers creep closer to that position, they'll either need to become a trade deadline buyer or seller.

Typically, the Oilers are sellers. They dump pieces at the deadline for draft picks or prospects as other teams load up for their final playoff runs. Doing this every year means the Oilers need to find viable pieces every summer and sometimes when your pro-scouting department is a bit iffy, that's easier said than done. It will be nice to see the Oilers as buyers, but this year, it will be a different marketplace.

NHL Expansion 

The way the expansion draft is set to work, Las Vegas will have a crack at a player from each team. That team will have the option to protect eight skaters and a goaltender or seven forwards, three defensemen and a goaltender. If you choose the latter, should you be a team with more than three excellent defensemen, you'll likely lose one.

What this means for Edmonton is that they should not and probably cannot add another defense contract that extends longer than the end of this season. Right now the Oilers have Adam Larsson, Oscar Klefbom and Andrej Sekera as their top-three defensemen under extended contracts. All three will be protected. The rest of the blue line is made up of Kris Russell (UFA), Darnell Nurse and Matthew Benning (entry-level deals), Eric Gryba (UFA), and Brandon Davidson (often injured).

Adding another contract, for a player you want to hang onto, moves Edmonton into the position that they either risk losing one of the Klefbom, Larsson or the new addition. Andrej Sekera's no-movement clause makes him untouchable.

If the Oilers make a trade for a defenseman at the deadline, it would need to be for a defenseman who's contract will expire, or one they can and are willing to lose in the expansion draft. Meaning, if you give up a lot to get this player, you are simply "renting" by all senses of the definition. Merely renting a player changes the trade in a major way.

The Exception

If the Oilers are willing to move an Andrej Sekera (I'm not sure I would if Edmonton is in the market for a rental at the deadline), they'd first have to convince him to waive his no-movement clause. Should they do so, Edmonton can sign a player like Kris Russell and protect him, or they can add a longer-term defenseman by trade, protecting him too. It changes the "big three", but it allows Edmonton have a bit more control.

If Sekera does not waive, Edmonton will likely lose any player they add that has value around the league. It's a catch-22.

The Most Likely Option

If the Oilers end up becoming trade deadline buyers, they'll be looking for a mere rental, nothing more. Edmonton will have to understand that when the season ends, the chances are good that player will not be an Oiler coming into the 2017-18 season.

We can only hope that when that time comes, Edmonton, not having been a trade deadline buyer in a long time, doesn't give up the moon and stars to obtain anyone.

But, who cares what I think right? For now, I'll just keep my mouth shut until I feel like spilling my guts again.

Jim Parsons is a business owner, husband, father and sports fan. For more information about founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.

Want to start spilling your sports gut? We're looking for writers. Go here.

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