Archive for 2016-09-11

Draisaitl and Puljujarvi Show Their Moxy

Leon Draisaitl responded to being benched by former Oilers coach and now World Cup European coach Ralph Kreuger, by scoring three goals in a 6-2 beating of the Swedes. It was a performance that showed Draisaitl could respond when challenged.

Photo by IQRemix



Meanwhile, Jesse Puljujarvi showed Oiler management and fans he has nothing but intention to play in the NHL with the Edmonton Oilers this season by dominating the Young Stars game against the Canuck rookies with a two goal and one assist performance. Outside of the two goaltenders, Puljujarvi was clearly the best skater on the ice in that game and his skill was on full display.


This coming season, these two players could see time in Edmonton on the same line. While early, if these respective performances are indication of what Oiler fans can expect, this could have the makings of an extremely dangerous third line.

The Oilers could structure their top line with McDavid flanked by Lucic and Eberle. A second line of Nugent-Hopkins, Pouliot and Versteeg offers a strong two-way presence. A third-line of international players Draisaitl, Puljujarvi and Nail Yakupov could then take on the oppositions weaker third lines. It's rare in the NHL to have three legitimate scoring lines, but the Oilers could be one of the rare exceptions.

There is still lots of time left in pre-season and other performances may change the outlook, but so far, so good. The Oilers have another young stars game tonight against the Calgary Flames and as of this writing, it's unclear if Puljujarvi will again suit up for Edmonton. He will however get another chance in the next couple days to show that his performance against the Canucks wasn't a one-off.

Puljujarvi is an exciting player and from here it's baffling how Columbus passed on him at the number three spot in this past NHL draft. 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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Andrew Ference All But Officially Retires from the NHL

While he hasn't officially retired, Oilers former captain and defenseman Andrew Ference is admitting his NHL career is over. Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal recently published an interview he conducted with Ference and it's clear from that article, Edmonton fans won't see the blueliner on the new Rogers Place ice as a player this or any time in the near future.

Photo by Lisa Gansky

It's no surprise that Matheson, who has been known over his media career to get a lot of information other media can't get, is the one to break this story. It's not as though the news comes as a surprise, but more, that until now, it's never been publicly addressed and admitted. Unless I'm mistaken, this is the first time Ference himself has come out and unofficially called it a "career-ending injury".

A Solid NHL Career

Ference was drafted 208th overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1997. As an unranked player, it wasn't until after Ference sent a letter to every NHL GM, which included test results from the University of Alberta, that he intented to prove scouts wrong and carve a career for himself in the NHL, that he got noticed. 

It took Ference a couple years to land a full-time role in the NHL, but in 2002, he made his mark, playing in a number of regular season games and posting 10 points in 18 games in the playoffs. In 2003, he was traded to the Calgary Flames and played there until being traded to the Boston Bruins in 2007. 

In 2011, he was part of the Stanley Cup Championship Bruins team. He continued to play for the Bruins until his contract expired in 2013. That summer he was signed by the Oilers where he is now ending his career.

It's Ending Differently Than Hoped


Ference was well aware his career in the NHL, at least with the Oilers, was coming to a close earlier than he may have liked. Before it became clear he wouldn't pass physicals and as a result, be placed on long-term injury reserve, he was due to be a seventh defenseman on the Oilers at best. Even if healthy, he was bound to be replaced by younger, up-and-coming talent, both faster and more skilled.

It wasn't the way Ference had hoped to end his career, but he's come to terms with it and is now ready to move on. He'll get paid the final year of his four-year contract with the Oilers, but the team will get salary cap relief. From there, it doesn't look as though Ference will take any sort of role behind the scenes, limiting his work with the Oilers to charity causes that are near and dear to his heart.

Ference's four years with the Oilers weren't exactly what fans would probably call successful, but Ference was a proud captain, a better person and the kind of player that was never supposed to make it, but did.

As a young kid who went to high school with Ference  (I was two years ahead and he was good friends with my younger sister), I got a pretty close look at a young man who has proved to be the kind of captain Oilers fans should be proud of.

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.


Nugent-Hopkins Seems to Have His Game Back

There has been some concern over the past few months that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' career has been on sort of a downturn. He had a less than stellar season in 2015-16 and his health has been in question. Some have suggested that maybe 'baby-Nuge' be moved to third-line center and instead, Leon Draisaitl be given some of those prime minutes and a top-six center.


There was so much debate about where he fit, I felt the need to go to bat for Nugent-Hopkins on in an article on the Hockey Writers (another publication I contribute to).
If the coaching staff or management of the Oilers have even considered demoting Nugent-Hopkins, he's not going down without a fight. While it's only been two games, his play at the World Cup of Hockey for team North America has shown that some people may have been too quick to write-off his talents and what be brings to the Oilers on a nightly basis.

Tenacity

Nugent-Hopkins has been all over the ice (in a good way). He's been tenacious on the puck, his first goal being one that he clearly created with his defensive back-checking and determination. He's being relied upon in defensive two-way situations and he looks the part while chipping in on offense — something he'll need to do this year in Edmonton to be successful.

Faceoffs


Some people's concern has been with Nuge's ability to win draws. Over the course of his career, he's been an under-50 percent faceoff player. It's an area that needed (still needs) work. Through two games at the World Cup, he's been clearly a different player in the dot and in the second game, won 71 percent of his draws. The really telling part is that he won these draws mostly against Anze Kopitar, who through his career has been one of the NHL's strongest faceoff players.

The Oilers need a strong faceoff center in 2016-17 as none of the charted centers this season are traditionally strong faceoff percentage players.

Continued Play


If Nugent-Hopkins can continue his strong play, he's got cheerleaders who make big decisions with the Oilers right beside him. Oilers coach Todd McClellan is watching his every move as North America team coach and Oilers-GM Peter Chiarelli is also the manager of the North American squad. Strong play by Nuge will mean move opportunities with the Oilers and more production. This is exactly what Nugent-Hopkins needs after a less than ideal 2015-16 NHL 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.




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

Is Connor McDavid Being Held Pointless in World Cup of Hockey An Issue?

Frankly, this is the dumbest question I'll probably ask all day.


The fact that Connor McDavid hasn't scored or registered a point in the two pre-tournament exhibition games at the World Cup of Hockey is not an issue, but it won't stop people from making it into one. That's the price I guess for being one of the best hockey players in the world —  when you don't score every game, some people will simply assume something is wrong.


The Score Sheets


No, McDavid does not have a point. In fact, he's the only player on team North America to not have been on the ice for a goal in the two team victories. Of all skaters on team North America, he's going to be the last player to register a goal or an assist. (I've provided a fancy chart to go along for visual reference.)


Who Cares?


While some people are quick to point at this as a concern, I'm not one of those people. Sure, I'm drawing some attention to it, but only in the hopes that those worry-worts can take a chill-pill and realize that this is not the end of the world. McDavid is still going to be one of the best players in the NHL this season, he'll still have his 80 to 100 points and he'll still be named captain, hopefully bringing the Oilers to glory over his NHL career.

What He Has Done


McDavid hasn't been silent. No points in two games; doesn't mean, no production in two games. In these two games, he's been in on scoring chances, he's given ten-bell assists to players where the puck just didn't go in and more importantly, he's picked up in the speed and skill department where he left off at the end of last season.

He's showed to be stronger on faceoffs, he's being looked to as a team leader, and, oh ya, he's been one of team North America's best defensive forwards.


When asked about his production, McDavid responded "Ultimately it doesn't matter. We've won twice. That's all that matters. Personally, it's not the kind of start I want to get off to, but it's two games into the year. Why would I worry?" He said something similar at the start of the 2015-16 season with the Oilers when he didn't produce a point in the first couple games. He went on to produce at more than a point-per-game pace over the rest of 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.




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