Archive for 2016-07-31

OUTSIDE OF MCDAVID, WHO IS EDMONTON'S MVP THIS SEASON?

It's pretty clear that Connor McDavid needs to both, stay healthy and live up to expectations if the Edmonton Oilers are going to have any sniff at the playoffs this year. He shouldn't have to exceed expectations — after all, fans are throwing everything at this kid but the kitchen sink. But, if he can manage around the 80 points that everyone seems to think he's capable of, if and when he has a little help, the Oilers could make a bit of a run.

Let's say McDavid is successful. Let's assume he's good for 80-90 points. In the NHL, one player doesn't equal wins. Who needs to be the second best player on the team?

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Photo credit Dinur via Visual hunt  CC BY-NC-ND

Cam Talbot


Goaltending flat out can win you games. Outside of a few shades of excellence, the Oilers haven't had solid goaltending in years. This season may be the first time in some time that the Oilers and their fans may have answered the question, "do we have a legitimate starter"?

If Cam Talbot can consistently manage a .915-.920 save percentage, steal a few games here and there and play 60-65 games with no need to bring in the "monster", the Oilers will be a better team and do well beyond the 29th place finish from last season. If he struggles, the Oilers will struggle.

Oscar Klefbom


The Oilers need a big-minutes defender whose underlying numbers are strong, who can contribute on offense and who plays in all situations. Edmonton thinks that player is Klefbom. The problem is, he hasn't been healthy enough to prove he is what they think he is.

Having a strong partner (which the Oilers hope to have found in Adam Larsson) should help Klefbom add more to his game than even his impressive showing last year which gave fans such hope. If Klefbom falters, the Oilers are in real trouble. The depth on defense is undoubtedly better, but still unproven and an injury or slump away from really hurting Edmonton's chances.

Milan Lucic

Lucic came in as the replacement for Taylor Hall. He won't be that. But, Lucic having a strong season and contributing both on offense and changing the overall feel and personality of this team is no small feat, but no less important. As McDavid described it, Lucic adds some swagger to the team they didn't have prior to his arrival. If that's true, Lucic will be the leader of a meaner, tougher and nastier Pacific Division Oilers. 55 points should be considered a minimum contribution from Lucic.

Similarly, there needs to be real chemistry between McDavid and Lucic. It's not that McDavid won't up Lucic's game — because he will, but if these two can click, it could be fun to watch.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins


He's was rumored to be on his way out. He had a disappointing season and he's coming off an injury-riddled campaign. If there is ever a time to show he can bounce back from last years' issues, this is it. A healthy and effective Nugent-Hopkins means the Oilers have a strong first and second line center combination that can spread the offense and make it harder for teams to defend. It gives Edmonton a dangerous second unit powerplay and it takes some of the pressure off McDavid.

Nugent-Hopkins is also Edmonton's defensive center. His job isn't just to score points and contribute offensively, but he's looked upon as a shutdown, two-way center. He's Edmonton's version of Patrice Bergeron or Pavel Datsyuk. Nugent-Hopkins will be pulling double-duty and he needs to do it effectively.


Todd McLellan


The first year coach got cut a little slack. A new team, new players and a strong history in other organizations, meant people knew McLellan was the right man for the job, even if the Oilers finished in 29th place. McLellan won't be afforded the same sort of flexibility this season. He needs to do a bang -up job of getting players like Nail Yakupov, Adam Larsson, Nugent-Hopkins and Jesse Puljujarvi contributing to this team in the right roles. There needs to be a system the players can work with, understand and hold each other accountable for. Most importantly, the players need to trust and play his game, which was a problem in the past.

There are others like Leon Draisaitl, Jordan Eberle, Larsson or Andrej Sekera that will need to play up to or past the abilities they've shown in the past. Edmonton needs a team effort, but at the very least it needs more than one guy to do all the work. If you can't pick McDavid, who's your MVP?

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 Oilersnetwork.com founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.

EDMONTON OILERS: FROM THE NET OUT

Most teams, GM's and experts will tell you that to build a winning franchise, rosters should be built from the "net out". Meaning, start in goal with the best goaltender you can get, build a strong defensive core and fill in your roster with forwards who can put the puck in the net. Essentially, keep the puck out of your own net first, score goals second.


The Past


The Edmonton Oilers have been doing things backward for almost a decade. Since the loss of Chris Pronger, the Oilers have run a shady, unequipped and inexperienced blue. General Managers from Steve Tambellini to Craig MacTavish refused to take more than a second to fill the defense with anything but plug-and-play temporary solutions. Outside of Oscar Klefbom, who was drafted 19th overall in 2011, no high-end prospects on defense were drafted (the question is still out on Darnell Nurse) nor were there trades to land a top-two. Instead, they traded on-the-cusp blueliners like Jeff Petry and got draft picks or forwards in return.

The Oilers did the same with goaltending. Dwayne Roloson was picked up at the deadline in 2006, went on a run and as a result got a lengthy extension. Despite the fact that Roloson had one good stretch, the Oilers didn't cement Edmonton's goaltending position and during Roloson's time and every year after, it was a series of backup after backup. Eventually, Edmonton traded their one true netminding prospect in Devan Dubnyk, who not coincidentally, went on to have a decent career in Minnesota.

The Present


Today, the Oilers have a General Manager who understands this "net out" philosophy. Peter Chiarelli has used valuable draft selections and traded important assets to get strong on defense and in net. He used draft selections to go after a goaltender in Cam Talbot, he's moved picks to pick up, while still unproven, highly regarded defensive prospects and he's refused to trade pieces like Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse because he understands that if and when they live up to their potential, they have incredible value.

We can criticize the trades — specifically what it took to land Griffin Reinhart or the return for Taylor Hall, but what we shouldn't criticize is Chia's understanding that these trades needed to revolve around defense and goaltending. The Oilers were losing games because they couldn't stop the other team from scoring. Goaltending and defense will win games. Ignoring it, won't.

I'm not one to suggest always molding your team after the defending champs, but there is a reoccurring theme. If you take a look at the past champions you can see what they have in common:

  • 2016 - Pittsburgh had Kris Letang, Trevor Daley and Ben Lovejoy
  • 2015 - Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson
  • 2014 -Kings had Drew Doughty, Vyacheslav Voynov, Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez
  • 2011 - Bruins had Zdeno Chara
Teams didn't have to be stacked, but the common thread was that every team had at least one, if not two defensemen who crunched a ton of minutes, contributed both offensively and defensively and could do heavy-lifting to help out the forwards and the goaltending. Every team, with the exception of maybe Pittsburgh last year, had a proven goaltender. 

The Future 


This Oilers team is as close to a "net out" team as we've seen since 2006. Even then, when Edmonton went to the cup finals, the Oilers lacked a bonafide number one netminder until just before the playoffs. However, to be able to call this team a "net out" team, Talbot will need to have a full season with strong results and Klefbom alongside Adam Larsson will need to show they can provide those big minutes and steady results. Players like Sekera and Davidson will need to be there to back them up.

As of now, we can't call these definite solutions. We simply don't know yet how Larsson and Klefbom will play. They may be fantastic and they may be in over their heads. Talbot may be a number-one all year long and he may struggle. Clearly, this is a more rounded team, but are the changes enough to call this a different team? A "net out" type of team?

I think the Oilers needed a better backup goaltender and one more proven defensemen would take Edmonton a long way to being a team that can start from goaltending and defensive strength. Maybe the additions Chiarelli made will prove me wrong. 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 Oilersnetwork.com founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.







EDMONTON OILERS: CAN ANTON LANDER BE REPAIRED?

There was a time that Anton Lander was thought to be a bonafide NHL third-line center. Spending years in the AHL with the Oklahoma City Barons, Lander took the long developmental road not often taken by Edmonton Oiler prospects. He struggled, worked on his game, found success under coach Todd Nelson and was called up to the bigs and showed well.

Photo By Bridget Samuels

The Good


In the 2013-14 and 2014-15 AHL seasons, Lander was starting to earn praise for his leadership (was named captain), his talent in all situations and his on-ice results. He had 52 points in 46 games, followed up by 31 points in 29 games. Lander followed Nelson up to the Oilers mere weeks after Nelson had been promoted and the result was 20 points in 38 games — he looked like the real deal. He was signed to a two-year extension.

The Bad


Over that summer, Nelson was let go and replaced by Todd McLellan. Lander hasn't come close to producing the same results since. Under McLellan, Lander scored a single goal in 61 games. He added two assists and spent a great deal of time watching from the press box, essentially killing any credibility he had built up in four prior seasons of hard work.

But who is Anton Lander? Is he the player who dominated in the AHL and came up to score 20 points in 38 games? Or, is he the player who had one goal in 61 games, a CF% of 47.3 and had next to no chemistry with the teammates he played most often with last season?

The Indifferent


Honestly, I don't think it matters. Whether Lander is as poor a player as his results showed last season, it wasn't pretty for Lander in 2015-16. Of the 378 forwards who played more than 400 minutes, Lander ranked 375th in points-per-60. This is enough when you combine his spot on the depth chart to realize, Lander's last chance may have come and gone. He may not get another opportunity under McLellan because the Oilers simply can't afford to make costly mistakes or lose games at this stage in the game.

Lander has two saving graces — injury and the fact Edmonton did not sign another center over the summer. If the Oilers find themselves in trouble due to a lack of center depth, Lander could get a chance, but on a short leash. If he can't bounce back and resemble anything close to the player he was in 2014-15, Lander will see the box or be given a ticket out of town.

He should have better players surrounding him, as the overall depth is improved, but Lander needs to figure it out and in a hurry. His window is closing and opportunities to bury ten-bell chances won't be afforded to him more than once. Whether or not Lander can be repaired is a good question. Almost as important is where he'll get the chance to make those repairs.

My guess is Lander has the stuff to be a better than good pro hockey player. I just have this feeling he won't be proving it in Edmonton. 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 Oilersnetwork.com founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.


EDMONTON OILERS FORWARDS: WHO GETS THE GRAVY-TRAIN MINUTES

It's one thing to be lucky enough to play on a team that has Connor McDavid. It's another to be selected as his line-mate. McDavid isn't just a generational talent, he clearly makes the players around him better.

Taking a look at his stats, his CF% numbers are the stuff of rookie dreams. His CF% rel of 6.2 and Fenwick scores of 52.8% and Fenwick rel 6.9 would make teammates salivate —  if hockey players truly paid attention to the stat lines. What matters is that teammates of McDavid understand, if you're on his line, you're on the gravy-train. You could literally pick up points simply by standing in one place and letting McDavid bounce the puck off of you, but you better work to stay that lucky.

McDavid makes all his linemates better on the ice. At practice with Darnell Nurse. Photo by Connor Mah

Milan Lucic knows this. It's one of the many reasons he cited choosing the Edmonton Oilers over what was probably a dozen teams that showed interest in his services over the summer. Lucic has skill, size and enough speed to keep up and could potentially have a miraculous season. Lucic starting the 2016-17 on McDavid's line is a given. But who gets the gravy-train minutes on the right side?

Jordan Eberle


Eberle is likely the consensus selection. He's done well with McDavid before and is a skilled goal-scorer. When on the ice together, Eberle and McDavid boost up the others production and Eberle is probably the purest goal scorer the Oilers have. More than any other combination of McDavid and another forward, this pairing directed the most shots at the net, This is a good thing for a team that needs to shoot more.

To improve his versatility, Eberle is actively working on his one-timer, getting ready to accept those juicy McDavid passes and pot what Eberle hopes could be a 40-goal season if both stay healthy.

Nail Yakupov


Whether Yakupov has gotten the shaft over his NHL career in Edmonton or simply needs some time to showcase his goal scoring ability to up his trade value, is up for debate. Regardless, Yakupov is another popular choice. Yak was selected for one reason — his elite ability to score goals. In short spurts, he's shown some ability to do so. His most notable spurt was the start of the 2015-16 season when paired with McDavid.

To date, Yakupov's scoring has been anything but elite, but with McDavid he was on a point-per-game pace to start the season. Because slotting Yakupov anywhere else could limit his effectiveness and skill set, would be it wise to place him in an area he's most likely to succeed? Or does doing so, come at the expense of another forward who could have similar or better chemistry?

Yakupov's numbers are almost 4 percentage points better when he's with McDavid — that's not a small amount. But, if the Oilers find Yakupov not worth the risk or can't repeat that chemistry, in limited playing time, Yakupov did have a bit of a connection with Leon Draisaitl and maybe those two can reignite some sort of magic.

Leon Draisaitl


Some debate exists about where Draisaitl fits with the center depth in Edmonton. Is he better suited on the wing or in the pivot spot? If you move him to the wing, you have two strong lines in Lucic-McDavid-Eberle, Pouliot-Nugent-Hopkins-Draisaitl. This, however, leaves your third line center position relatively weak.

If you play Leon at center, his playing time with McDavid would be relegated primarily to time on the powerplay. Leon is a less popular choice simply because these two played extremely little time together in any real pairing in 2015-16. I don't see that likely to change.

Jesse Puljujarvi


Play the rookie with McDavid you say? The sight of two incredibly fast, powerful skaters flying toward the opposing teams' netminder paints a nice picture. It's the picture Oilers coaching hoped they'd see when Taylor Hall and McDavid played together, but that wasn't always the case. Two drivers of play on line, may be better suited apart.

There is no chemistry or past connection to refer to, but McDavid's ability to make everyone better and Puljujariv's ability to play with speed, power and skill make this an obvious choice to at least consider.

The real question here is how much consideration Puljujarvi gets to play the entire season in the NHL. If the Oilers plan to keep him in Edmonton, it might make sense to see who he strikes the most chemistry with and ride that train as long as possible.

Who would you choose? Is there anyone else you'd like to see McDavid make look fantastic? 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 Oilersnetwork.com founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.




EDMONTON OILERS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT OFFICE CHANGES AND KEITH GRETZKY



The Edmonton Oilers announced some pretty significant changes Tuesday. The biggest of which is that Edmonton is moving on from VP Scott Howson and brought in, as acting Assistant General Manager, Keith Gretzky.


Gretzky is the newest name in a line of Boston Bruin alumni who have experience working with current Oiler GM Peter Chiarelli. Chia is working to remove the sins of the past with names he knows and the Oilers are starting to look like a Bruins team reincarnated. That said, Gretzky isn't just a familiar face. He has a history of finding some good talent in the later rounds of the draft — most notably, David Pastrnak with Bruins and some major hits with the Coyotes.

There is, however, some debate about Gretzky's track record. In a year (2015) where the Bruins traded Dougie Hamilton and wound up with a number of draft choices, they were heavily criticized for their draft selections. Having left more consensus picks on the board, Boston went off the beaten path and took some heat for it. Interestingly, most of the question marks they drafted seem to be developing. How instrumental Gretzky was in those draft selections, we may never know.

Gretzky started with the Coyotes in 2001, moved on to be their head scout and was ultimately let go, finding work in Boston. He was promoted to director of amateur scouting and must have formed a pretty tight bond with the Oilers new GM. Bill Scott, who previously held the Assistant GM position, will transition into a new role as the Oilers Director of Salary Cap Management and Assistant to the President of Hockey Operations.


Dellow and Howson Out



We've talked before about analytics and the stats guys versus old school hockey. Tyler Dellow was the casualty of that Oiler debate internally. It's difficult to tell how much of an impact this decision will have as we really have no way of knowing which advice the Oilers may have followed or not followed when it came to Dellow's recommendations. In fact, we have no idea as to the level of input Dellow was ever afforded. In either case, the Oilers believe that internally they have a handle on the analytic side of things, which remains to be seen.

The bigger news is the release of Scott Howson. The reality is Howson's release was coming and simply a matter of time. His experience is vast but questionable at best, being the architect behind a rocky tenure in Columbus as General Manager and the influential motivation behind the Nikita Nikitin signing . By every measure of the word, that signing was an absolute bust and you have to believe a big enough blunder that it was kind of a one-strike situation.

The Names In

Kelly Buchberger will now serve as Edmonton's VP of Player Development, Duane Sutter will be VP of Player Personnel, Edmonton has hired Andre Brin as Manager of Hockey Communications and Shawn May has been promoted to Manager of Hockey Communications and Media Relations.



EDMONTON OILERS: CAP CRUNCH TEAMS AND RIGHT-HANDED DEFENSE

Yesterday I wrote a piece citing the merits of Brandon Davidson. My thought was that after missing out on Tyson Barrie, internally, the Oilers may have options. After taking a bit of a closer look at other teams today, I'm even more convinced this is the right play.

If the Edmonton Oilers are going to add a right-handed defenseman, they're going to need to do it on the cheap — that is, unless they plan to move another body out over this season or the summer. If we take a look at close to the cap ceiling teams, we see something interesting. There are not a lot of right-handed defensemen available.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/clydeorama/6225808882/in/pool-ganggreen/

Detroit Red Wings


I like this player. 7 goals and 28 assists for 35 points is decent production, especially considering 5 of those goals came on the powerplay. He's getting up there in age, but still averages 19 minutes per game and has a positive Corsi at 55.2 in 5v5 situations. The trick here will be if his numbers continue at this pace or if his game slows down.  He should get playing time in Edmonton and could slot in as a number two d-man on the right side but I don't see Detroit moving on from him. Their blue line is already depleting and moving Green would create a large hole.

Pittsburgh Penguins


Their right side is not strong. Kris Letang is an MVP type player and they'll be no moving him. Beyond that, it's Ian Cole or Justin Schultz. We know Schultz and what he offers. Ian Cole shoots left, but plays the right side. Pittsburgh isn't a fit.

Philadelphia Flyers


Mark Streit is an aging defenseman that shoots left from the right side. His production is dipping dramatically and with another season at $5.25 million makes no sense for Edmonton. Beyond Streit, the only other regular RD on their roster is Radko Gudas who the Flyers wouldn't move with their cap issues and lack of depth at defense.

Toronto Maple Leafs


Morgan Rielly is their future. He's a right defenseman who shoots left. Toronto wouldn't move him and it's not a true fit. Stephane Robidas provides about as much offense as Mark Fayne. Connor Carrick is a right-shooting, right-handed blueliner, but also a prospect. He's too young to make an immediate impact.

Montreal Canadiens


Shouldn't have to explain the issues with taking on a contract like one Shea Weber owns. Big, right-handed, right-shooting powerplay super-hero that also runs $7.8 million over the next gazillion years. One or two more years and I'd take this in a heartbeat. Seven more years and you have to wonder what Montreal was thinking. Would the Oilers dare move to bring Jeff Petry back?

San Jose Sharks


What I wouldn't do to obtain Brent Burns. I would have moved Taylor Hall for him. I would move Jordan Eberle or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for him. He would be a perfect fit and if he comes up for free agency next year and is available, I hope the Oilers make a play there. Paul Martin is steady, but shoots left and Justin Braun could be a fit. He doesn't bring a lot offensively, which is really what Edmonton needs, but he's got the right size cap hit at the right age.

Los Angeles Kings


Alex Martinez. shoots left and Matt Greene is getting a little old in the tooth. Drew Doughty really is their whole right side in Los Angeles. He'll be relied upon heavily.

Colorado Avalanche


On the right side it's Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie. Beyond that, the Avs have little depth. It was Barrie or bust when it came to RD out of Colorado.

Conclusion


We could keep going down the list of RD available on cap teams, but we'll find a familiar trend. There really aren't many and any who would be, those teams wouldn't part with. Mike Green is about as close as I could find, but he's expensive, aging and needed in Detroit. It might take something to get him and at this stage, I'm more apt to find an internal solution that create a hole somewhere to add him. That said, if he could be had for prospects and a pick to help Detroit out of some real cap concerns, I'd consider it. I just don't think Detroit would.

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 Oilersnetwork.com founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.






EDMONTON OILERS: UTILIZING BRANDON DAVIDSON

On Sunday, a few Edmonton Oiler fans got themselves into a tizzy because the hot RFA commodity of the summer, Tyson Barrie, was re-signed by the Colorado Avalanche and essentially taken off the market. Reaction ranged from a kind of what are we going to do now? response to a who's left that Edmonton can add to make this a better team?

Edmonton needs a quarterback on the powerplay. It's the reason there seems to be love for unsigned and recently injured James Wisniewski. Wisniewski would be a gamble, but he has a bit point producing history. When a need is strong, as it is in this case, fans seem to be ok with the risk and Wisniewski would be a viable option. There is, however, another option few people seem to be considering. Perhaps it would serve the Oilers well to like right under their own noses at a player like Brandon Davidson. He might be the solution to a number of problems.

http://www.metronews.ca/content/dam/thestar/uploads/2016/2/29/brandondavidson.jpg.size.xxlarge.promo.jpg

Brandon Davidson


Davidson is 6 foot 2 inches tall and weighs 210 pounds. He shoots left (something the Oilers have a lot of is left-handed defensemen), but he offers something that some of his left-handed teammates do not — a decent shot from the point and an ability to up the level of his linemates.

In 2015-16 Davidson posted some of the best underlying numbers of any defenseman on the team. He did so while being one of the lowest paid players, playing some of the highest minutes. In his over 19:00 minutes per game, had had a CF% of 52.1 and a CF% rel of 3.2. In short, Davidson made every player he played with elevate their game. They were better when he was on the ice with them.

While Davidson plays little on the powerplay, he is a penalty killing machine. He's averaged some incredible minutes a man down and there was a stretch last year where Edmonton was killing 6:19 straight short-handed and Davidson was on the ice for 5:06 of that time. That said, his penalty killing isn't what has me the most interested.

Davidson, despite not getting many chances to show it, can be and is effective on the man-advantage. He was actually first among Edmonton defenders in 5x4 situations with 2 points in 22 minutes. And his cannon of a shot is something the Oilers need to take better advantage of. (click on link to video at around the 1:59 mark)



With Oscar Klefbom and Andrej Sekera as your one and two left-handed defensemen, Davidson is sort of in limbo. His stats show he is a better player and puck-mover than a third-pair lefty, but there isn't really a way to slide him up unless he plays his off hand. Now that Edmonton hasn't landed that right-handed blueliner they may have been searching for, it makes sense to me to try him out as a first and second unit powerplay option. Adding those minutes to his third-pairing left blue minutes may be a great fit to start the season.

Davidson started to surprise many who had no idea what the Oilers had. A late round draft choice in 2010, he was undiscovered talent until some roster changes and injuries gave him an opportunity. I think if another opportunity comes knocking (and it may have with the signing by Colorado of Barrie) Davidson will make the most of it.

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 Oilersnetwork.com founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.


EDMONTON OILERS: HOW A NEW ARENA AFFECTS TEAM RESULTS

The Edmonton Oilers new on-ice home at Rogers Place is going to be amazing. There's really no other way to say it. Touted as one of the most impressive indoor arenas in the world, Rogers Place is a conglomeration of every good idea from every one of the best under 20,000 seat arenas ever built.


A variety of concert performances, the Edmonton Oil Kings and primarily the Edmonton Oilers will be hosted by Rogers Place and the building will be home to thousands of rabid fans excited to cheer on a new chapter — a chapter that hopefully includes a winning brand of hockey. If so, it will be a welcome site. The now former home of the Oilers, Rexall Place (formerly Northlands Coliseum), will be remembered as home to one of the best hockey teams ever assembled, but also a decade of crapping on that memory and finishing at the bottom of the NHL standings.




The Oilers in Northlands and Rexall Place


In the mid-1980's to 1990, the Edmonton Oilers who played in Rexall Place were feared and revered. Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Grant Fuhr, Jari Kurri and Paul Coffey were just a few of the stars to skate and amaze in that building. If you were an opposing team, coming to the house the Oilers built was going to make for a long night and it was a stop on the road trip few teams looked forward to. Those days are long gone.

The Oilers of the past ten seasons have been a team doomed to dwell in the basement of the NHL, consistently a bottom-five lottery team. Not since the 2011-12 season, where Edmonton went 18-17-6 at home, have the Oilers had an above .500 winning ratio in their own building. Any visiting team, no matter what their place in the standings, had a chance at an easy two points. Rexall Place was not a feared building to play in.

As a result, Edmonton has been stock-piling number one draft selections and landed a generational talent in Connor McDavid. The winning hasn't begun yet, but most feel the tide is turning. To say it's time for a change would be an understatement and a new arena may be just what the doctor ordered. But, will Rogers Place actually play a factor?

Is a New Building Really a Recipe For Success?

Understandably, players want to play with the best. Connor McDavid has and will make it easier to sign talent. But, is there anything to this idea of a fresh start in a new building? Can a new environment make that much of a difference? Will the Oilers actually be a better team in a newer building, shedding the demons of Rexall past, or does a new arena mean everyone takes some time to adjust to their surroundings? Perhaps a new arena hurts "home-ice advantage"?

One might think with the new technology, updated amenities and state-of-the-art everything Rogers Place will provide, the Oilers simply can't be as bad as they've been — the new building wouldn't dare allow it. A fancy new address may be something that draws players in, but others might argue that in a new building, both teams are essentially strangers to the ice surface. That outside of the home team fans, neither side really knows the nuances and bounces, the tricks and the secrets that come with being familiar with a place you play in often.

On September 26, 2016, Edmonton will play its first game in Rogers Place when they take on the Calgary Flames in pre-season action. Prior to that game, there won't be a lot of time to test and feel out their new home. Both the Flames and Oilers will be playing on relatively unfamiliar ground. Will it matter? In sports, does being familiar with your building really mean all that much?

The idea raises some intriguing questions. Sam Neumann wrote an interesting piece over at vikingsterritory.com showing how a new arena has affected NFL teams. The results are staggeringly boring, in that, there is no clear evidence — at least not in the NFL — that teams are affected by moving buildings. You can see in the chart below (which I borrowed from his article), just how irregular the changing of a building impacts the new team that inhabits it.


Along a similar line, I wondered something when it came to the NHL. Did teams who played home games in a new building, either as a result of relocating or simply getting a new arena, have an advantage? Were they a distinctly better team in their new environment over teams who were visiting? After all, neither team would have a rich history in said new environment.

NHL Results

  • in 2011, the Atlanta Thrashers moved to become the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets were 37-35-10 for 84 points that year and missed the playoffs. Prior to that year, Atlanta had missed as well with 80 points. The home and away record in 2010-11 was nearly identical wheras the home record for the Jets was dramtically improved.
  • in 2010, the Penguins moved from Civic Arena to the Console Energy Center. The Penguins were 49-25-8 after the move and 47-28-7 before it. Home and away record very similar.
  • In 1999, the Maple Leafs went 45-27-7-3 at the Air Canada Centre. They were 45-30-7 the year before. 
  • in 1998, the Florida Panters went 30-34-18 after moving to the BB&T Center. They were 24-43-15 the year before. They were four wins better at home than on the road.
  • in 1997 the Hartford Whalers moved to Carolina who after moving were 33-41-8 for 74 points and missed the playoffs. They played two years in an interim building before moving to their permanent home in Raleigh.
  • in 1996, Tampa Bay moved to the Amalie Arena and went 32-40-10. They were 38-32-12 in 1995-96. 
  • in 1996, the Winnipeg Jets became the Phoenix Coyotes. The Jets had made the playoffs the year prior and the Coyotes did as well in their first season. Neither team lasted very long.
  • In 1996, Montreal moved to the Bell Centre. They went 40-32-10 in the season prior and 31-36-15 after the move. 
  • in 1996, the Flyers move to the Wells Fargo Center and went 45-24-13. The year before they were exactly the same, going 45-24-13.  The difference at home was minuscule, going 27-9-5  in 96/96 versus 23-12-6 in 96/97. 
  • in 1995, Quebec moved to Colorado and both were strong teams. The Avs won the cup in their first season in a new arena and moved on to become a dynasty for the next eight seasons. Quebec made the playoffs the year before in a shortened season.
  • in 1993, Minnesota moved to Dallas and the Stars made the playoffs on the heel of a 42-29-13 season. Minnesota had missed the year prior. Again in 2001, Dallas moved arenas to the American Airlines Center. They missed the playoffs that year despite success the year prior.


Conclusion

Some teams did better and some teams did worse. Winnipeg was great at home in their first season, but this is the closest scenario to a team I could find being a much better home team than the year before. It may be because Jets fans were elated to have hockey back in Winnipeg and the team could feel the excitement, or it may have been a coincidence. It likely didn't help that the arena in Atlanta was often empty. This is not a problem in Edmonton.

The Dallas Stars were 23-12-7 at home and 19-17-6 on the road in the 1993-94 season. They were a clearly better team at home than away after they moved. Yet in 2001 when they moved again, they missed the playoffs.

1996 -1998 was a big year for NHL teams in new buildings. Florida was a better team after they moved with six more wins. They still were not a playoff team for the second straight season. On the opposite side of the spectrum, when Tampa Bay moved, they lost six more games in their new building. Similarly, The Phoenix Coyotes were 15-19-7 at home and 23-18-0 on the road. Clearly better away from the new building. In Montreal, they lost more games but squeaked into the playoffs.

Dominant teams were still dominant teams. Colorado and Pittsburgh and Toronto were just clearly better teams during their moves and the changes didn't help or hurt their records. 

It's a relatively small sample size and I didn't look at every team to change buildings. I stopped after a while, because, like the NFL data discovered, there's no rhyme or reason to the success of a team after taking on a new location. Typically good teams stay strong and weaker teams continue to be weaker. It became clear early, that moving to a new building shows little in the way of immediate effects to the team who takes it over.

The Oilers


There are people who want to believe that Rogers Place, being as fantastic a building as it's going to be, will contribute to the turnaround of the Edmonton Oilers. That the fresh start in a new pad may help create a boost in the standings or worth a couple extra points. If that happens, it will be a complete and total coincidence. The Oilers may be better, but if they are, it won't be because of a new building.

If the Edmonton Oilers are going to turn their season around, it will have to be because they have a better team. Better players, better coaching and better overall teamwork. History shows that these are the only things that produce better results. Without big improvements, the Oilers, who have been a poor team, will continue to be a poor team, new building or not.

It makes little to no sense to suggest that a move to Rogers Place will help the team. History shows it plays little to no role. The question is, how much better is their team this year than last? The Oilers will have one of, if not the best, arenas in hockey. It may have been enough to draw a player or two to considering the Oilers as an option, it's just not likely to help them win games.

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 Oilersnetwork.com founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.


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