Archive for 2016-08-28

EDMONTON OILERS: MAGIC NUMBER 82

Oilers Now host Bob Stauffer and his play-by-play counterpart Jack Michaels had an interesting conversation yesterday. One thing Michaels said that struck a chord, was a comment he made about Connor McDavid.

Regardless of what is expected of McDavid this season, his magic number is 82. He could get 80 points, 90 points or 100 points, but if he doesn't stay healthy, the Oilers don't stand a chance. 82 games is the length of a regular season in the NHL and McDavid wants to say he played all of them. For an Oilers team that has injury trouble year after year, this number means something to a lot of Oiler players.

Photo By IQRemix

There wasn't a point during the entire 2015-16 season that Edmonton was able to roster a full and healthy lineup. The team they assembled during the summer of 2015, never actually saw the ice as a full and complete team. If it wasn't Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or McDavid, it was Benoit Pouliot or Oscar Klefbom.

The highest number of missed games (he only played in 6 games last season) belonged to Andrew Ference, who projects to play little to no role in the Oilers future. However, Klefbom missing over 50 games and McDavid missing almost 40 games is basically taking your top forward and top defenseman out of the line up for half a season. Edmonton can't be expected to compete if these types of trends continue.

The Oilers 2015-16 Finish


We can blame part of where Edmonton finished last season on injuries. With 368 man games lost and injuries to key players, it can't be overlooked. That said, every team has to jump the hurdle of missing players and it can't be used as a sole excuse. The Oilers need depth at every position to combat injuries when they happen. 

Edmonton has a number of players at forward and defense that are now ready to take on more responsibility if called upon. Forwards like Drake Caggiula, Jujhar Kharia, Tyler Pitlick, are players itching for a chance to show their stuff. Defensemen like Griffin Reinhart, Jordan Oesterle, Matthew Benning, Mark Fraser, David Musil and Dillon Simpson are hoping to see more than just a couple games.

There is some question and concern in goal should Cam Talbot go down. Jonas Gustavsson is questionable at best to stay healthy in any given year and his numbers haven't been strong.

With all positions considered, Edmonton seems to have fewer question marks regarding their lineup than ever before and depth to cover for a few games missed here and there. How much of an increase in the standings can the Oilers make if they can stay healthy?

Avoiding Injury to Start the Season


There is a chance players on this team don't make it to the start of the season. The Toronto Maple Leafs may have lost newly acquired and starting goaltender Frederick Andersen yesterday in an Olympic qualifier. The severity of the injury is still unclear, but it goes to show that when your players are active, which the Oilers will be during the World Cup of Hockey, anything can happen. 

Edmonton didn't have Eberle to start the season last year and there is some slight question about Klefbom's foot — an injury that has been on the Oilers mind since last season. Both are said to be ready to go now and newly acquired players like Adam Larsson and Milan Lucic have a history of being healthy players in the NHL. This is good news for the Oilers. With the amount of NHL'ers pulling out of the World Cup due to injury, it's a nice change to see the Oilers with a relatively healthy group.

 

Staying Injury Free


It's near impossible to expect that the Oilers at some point won't be dealing with injuries. But, some of the Oilers biggest casualties last year were due to freak incidences like blocked shots and strange or innocent enough looking hits that seemed minor when they happened, but turned into tons of games missed. It didn't help that key Oilers went down at some of the most inopportune times. 

If Edmonton hopes to make a jump in the standings, a better team is important. That's the job of a General Manager. Larsson, Lucic and other acquired talents that may come before the start of camp will help. But far more than any one player, is if the Oilers can stay healthy. If they can, they'll be a much better team. 15-20 points here and there by some of Edmonton's best players means more wins. More wins means moving up the standings. Moving up the standings means we can have exciting hockey to look forward to later in the season.

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.




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Gryba Contemplating Offered PTO With the Oilers

Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal has broken the news that the Edmonton Oilers have offered a PTO to right-handed defenseman Eric Gryba. It hasn't been officially accepted, but if Gryba can't earn a contract from another NHL team, the Oilers will have Gryba and potentially one other defenseman on a PTO in camp.


The official quote from Matheson is "Chiarelli said the team has offered a tryout to free-agent defenceman Eric Gryba, who played 53 games last season until damaging his knee. The Oilers want to see how younger defencemen Griffin Reinhart, David Musil, Jordan Oesterle and Darnell Nurse fare before committing to Gryba on a new deal. Gryba’s agent Rick Curran said if the defenceman agrees to any tryout, it’ll be here because he knows the players and the coaches and he wouldn’t going in cold to a camp."


If this all plays out as the Oilers are hoping, it sounds a lot like Gryba will be competing with another right-handed defenseman and a stack of younger prospects. In short, Gryba will have to win his old job back. It's not the situation he'd likely have hoped for, but it's an opportunity.

The odds are good that he'll make the most of his chances. He's the type of player the Oilers, specifically Peter Chiarelli, like. He's big, mean, tough and plays responsible defensive hockey. The Oilers would like more offense, but he's not a liability and you know what you're going to get with this player. He's a right-handed shot and the Oilers still don't have enough depth there. It's an advantage that plays well in Gryba's favor. 

The next few days will tell us if Gryba was able to squeeze a guaranteed contract out of another NHL or if he's going to be using the PTO route that seems to be the focus of the hockey news right now. NHL clubs will look to fill out their rosters with low-cost and no guarantee options. 

I'm for one hoping that it pans out for Gryba who I believe has value. His season was shortened last year and his true worth wasn't on display. In the shorter time-frame he had to demonstrate his effectiveness, I think he did so and has more to offer than what we saw. 

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.




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EDMONTON OILERS AND MIKE RICHARDS

I wrote a piece yesterday looking at the Edmonton Oilers and some options at center on PTO's. Not surprisingly, but somewhat intriguing based on the timing of things, two of the options I presented were scooped up by other teams mere hours after I posted the article. I'm not suggesting, by any means, that my article had anything to do with the signings, (that would be a laughable assumption), but more that the options I presented show that these players have potential value around the NHL.

Mike Richards could be an option on a PTO for the Oilers. Photo by neat1325

Both Jarret Stoll (Columbus) and Dominic Moore (Boston) were added to NHL rosters on either a PTO, or in Boston's case, signed Moore to a one-year contract. These could be fantastic value contracts for both clubs. One of the players mentioned yesterday in my piece and still out there is experienced center Mike Richards.




The Downside


People are going to make the same argument they made about Stoll in that Richards has a checkered past. At one point, he was considered one of the best two-way centers in the NHL, but has since fallen from grace and shuffled around the NHL.

He's been with Washington, Los Angeles and Philadelphia and at 31 years of age, his game has slowed dramatically. His past six seasons haven't been kind, but that could be due to the connection of health and off-the-ice issues that have plagued him recently. He could still have something left in the tank and definitely has something to prove.

The Upside 


Richards would be a gamble. Extending a PTO offer to him is the only way to go if you're going to consider bringing him in. His point totals last year in the 39 games he played with Washington weren't great, but his career as an NHL'er has some upside.

He's been on winning teams and in winning environments. He's likely learned from his mistakes of the past and if he's got his life back on track, could be a good role model for the young team that is the Oilers. Most importantly, there isn't a risk here as the odds are he's a fill while McDavid, Draisaitl and Nuge are at the World Cup of Hockey. Should he work out, he's a pleasant surprise and nothing more than a no-lose gamble that paid off. We shouldn't forget, at one point he was considered the building block on a very good Flyers team.

On the ice, he's a positive Corsi % player, a decent faceoff guy and a smart hockey player defensively. He's not shown to produce the same level of offense he once did, but his shot totals and his 5v5 points per 60 were better than almost any fourth line player the Oilers currently employ. He'd be used in a limited role and potentially as a penalty killer.

With fewer and fewer options left at center on PTO's, if the Oilers are looking to add someone during the World Cup of Hockey and want a player who can handle some NHL minutes, perhaps Richard's is one of the few viable options. I'd consider it just to take a look at Richard's and what he has left to provide an NHL team.

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.




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

EDMONTON OILERS: CENTERS AND PTO'S

There has been a lot of buzz lately regarding centers and PTO invites this summer. The chatter stems from the Oilers sending their three main centermen, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Connor McDavid to the World Cup of Hockey, which if all goes well for their respective teams, could bleed over into training camp.

It's unlikely that any of these players will miss significant time, but it doesn't change the fact that the Edmonton Oilers will need to prepare for a hugely important upcoming NHL season. They have holes to fill and systems to run with a full camp of players.

Jarret Stoll is a viable option on a PTO for the Oilers. Photo By Wendy

How do the Oilers head into camp and potentially pre-season with only one bonafide NHL center (Mark Letestu) on the roster? The answer is they don't. This is why media and those with a close ear to the situation think it's only a matter of time before the Oilers starting inviting some of the unsigned UFA's to camp.


Jarret Stoll


Stoll still has a few tools that could come in beneficial for the Oilers. He's a great faceoff guy, has some special-teams ability — kills penalties and has played point on the powerplay — and can fill in as an experienced third of fourth line center. He's played 872 NHL games, been to the cup finals with the Oilers in 2006, and after leaving Edmonton, has won two Stanley Cups with other teams.

The biggest thing in Stoll's favor is that while he didn't play time last year in Minnesota on the powerplay, he is effective at it and has a cannon from the point. The Oilers don't have a single player on the roster known for their powerful shot and this skill alone could make Stoll a moonlight player on a second-unit.


Update: Jarett Stoll has signed a PTO with the Columbus Blue Jackets as of this afternoon.




Shawn Horcoff


We discussed Horcoff the other day here. He's already come out as hinting that he's closer to retirement than he would be signing a PTO with the Oilers or any other team for that matter. I suppose things could change, but Edmonton won't be signing Horcoff to any sort of guaranteed contract, so this is a long-shot at best.

Cody Hodgson


There's a bit of chatter with this player, but I can't seem to wrap my head around as to why. Hodgson came into the NHL with one skill set, which was to produce offense and score goals. In 2012 and 2013 he was average and he does have NHL talent, but since then has been nothing shy of a major disappointment and has floated around in NHL obscurity.

I get that a PTO isn't a guarantee and that the NHL team who offers it, isn't on the hook for anything, but clearly Hodgson has one of two problems. His confidence to play in the NHL is either completely shot, or between the ears he needs major motivation. How can a player so highly touted be so lackadaisical in his approach to preparing for NHL employment? He's also not really a regular center in the NHL and the Oilers don't need another winger.

Mike Richards


Richards is an interesting case. At one point, he was clearly one of the better centers in the NHL, but his game took a turn and he became the guy that nobody seemed to want. He got himself in some legal trouble and is taking the long road back to finding his place in the league.

His last real NHL sample size was with the Washington Capitals, where last season he played 39 games and had five points. Underwhelming offense doesn't make him a guy you'd look to immediately, but he has a strong Corsi % and is pretty effective at stopping the rush and being sound defensively. He's a decent faceoff center of his career and averaged about 12 minutes per game which is more than some of the other fourth line centers still available.

Dominic Moore


Played last season with the Rangers and has some offense. Is an incredible faceoff guy, plays more than 13 minutes per game and the only knock on the Oilers signing him is that he's a left-handed shooter, where the Oilers could use a righty.

Moore is a bit older at 36, in fact, he's probably the oldest of the lot still available, but he brings with him a vast array of experiences that can help with a younger, more inexperienced Oilers team.

Update: According to multiple reports. Moore just signed a one-year contract with the Boston Bruins. 

There are so many options available in free agency that it seems silly the Oilers wouldn't invite at least two players to camp on a PTO. The money won't be an issue, there is no long-term commitment involved and Edmonton could use the help.

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.




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



Former Oiler Shawn Horcoff Inching Closer to Retirement

I wouldn't necessarily call it a rumour, but more a fun idea, that former Oilers center Shawn Horcoff might be a possibility in Edmonton on an NHL PTO. One of the most wrongly hated players to ever wear the Copper and Blue, Horcoff was figuratively driven to the airport by fans when the news broke Edmonton had traded the overpaid veteran to the Dallas Stars in 2013. Yet today, a player who was the scapegoat of a lousy bit of hockey management, seems to have an audience not only fine with, but excited about a potential return.

Shawn Horcoff by Lisa Gansky

In a way, I can understand the enthusiasm for a return of the player who was the subject of the " shirts off for Horcoff" craze that swept through Oil Country during the 2006 Stanley Cup finals run. Horcoff was a huge piece during a time that will be fondly remembered in Edmonton. Until the Oilers make a playoff return, it will be the shining moment for the franchise in the past decade. It was also the best season of Horcoff's career. It wasn't his fault he was offered a contract renewal valued at well more than his actual NHL worth as a result.

However, those who've become excited about a potential return may be disappointed. Horcoff has shot down the rumours of a PTO with the Oilers, and for that matter, any NHL team, as he feels at this point in his career a PTO is not an avenue he has interest in pursuing. He's much closer to retirement than NHL employment. As a veteran, who's seen a steady decline in production, it shouldn't come as a total surprise.


PTO's are no guarantee. While there are players who make the most of them and earn contracts in the NHL, it doesn't often happen with a player of both Horcoff's age and ability. For the vast majority of PTO candidates, contracts are a long shot.

Horcoff has had a decent NHL career, but his game has slowed and he knows it. If he's not provided a guaranteed contract, I can understand why he might want to call it a career. A PTO likely won't result in NHL employment and relatively speaking, it could be best to go out on your own terms.

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.




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