Archive for 2016-09-18

EDMONTON OILERS: DAY 1 Camp and the Stories Behind the Stories

Day one of Edmonton Oilers training camp got underway Friday with a lot of familiar faces, some new faces and a few missing faces. Coach Todd McLellan was back with the team after his North America squad was mathematically eliminated from the World Cup of Hockey and he took over camp, giving fans and media plenty to speculate about.

The Line Combination Story


The first thing most people focused in on was camp line combinations. Some of Friday's groups were a clear sign that prospects were placeholders for missing faces — both still resting or yet to return from the World Cup — but as McLellan freely admitted, we're also free to look at some of his groupings and draw logical conclusions.

The forwards lines were:
Lucic - Caggiula - Eberle
Pouliot - Letestu - Puljujarvi
Maroon - Lander - Yakupov
Benik - Hendricks - Kassian
Pitlick - Vesce - Versteeg
Beck - Khaira - Pakarinen
Christoffer - Sallinen - Slepyshev
Hamilton/Moroz - Platzer - Russell


The Story Behind Line Combinations: Drake Caggiula


Caggiula is getting a chance to show what he can do at center in the place of Connor McDavid. With McDavid resting, this clearly speaks volumes in terms of the opportunity about to be provided to Caggiula — the young college free agent signing, who also had a strong showing at this year's Oilers Young Stars and Rookie Camp.

Caggiula is a potential long-shot to make the Oilers out of camp, but there's some buzz that Edmonton thinks highly enough of his abilities that they're going to give him a chance to show whether or not he deserves consideration against real NHL talent.

The Story Behind Line Combinations: Patrick Maroon



Maroon is out to prove the end of last season was no fluke. No, it's not expected that he'll score at the 14 points in 16 games pace he did to end 2015-16, but he approached this year's camp as though people had been writing him off (which I think is a mistake).

He lost 25 pounds over the summer, is back at a much slimmer weight and looks ready be a lot faster on the ice. He was grouped today with Nail Yakupov and Anton Lander. Lander is likely holding a spot for Leon Draisaitl, but it's a nice sign to see Yakupov get some minutes with another skilled forward in Maroon. It's possible Yak gets an opportunity between Draisaitl and Maroon to start the season.

Perhaps the idea here is that a speedier, but still gritty Patrick Maroon can help guys like Yakupov rebound from a poor 2015-16 season and be the complimentary piece on a third scoring line.


The Defense Pairings Story


Klefbom - Larsson
Nurse - Davidson
Simpson - Fayne
Reinhart - Gryba
Oesterle - Benning
Laleggia - Musil
Fraser - Bear
Jones - Niemalainen - Becker



The Story Behind the Obvious Defense Pairings


Klefbom and Larsson make sense together and should see most of this year working as a pair.  Nurse jumps up a spot in the absence of Andrej Sekera, but it will be interesting to see if Brandon Davidson stays on the off side or moves over once Sekera returns, leaving Sekera to play right defense.

The Story Behind the Not-so-Obvious Defense Pairings


Mark Fayne is on the right-side but where will he slot once the entire roster is at camp? Is he a third-pairing guy? Is he a second-pairing defenseman? Where does that leave Eric Gryba who is at camp on a PTO? Gryba will have to earn his spot, but he may be the seventh defenseman on this Oilers blue line when it's healthy and in tact.

Why was Dillon Simpson the choice to play up in the absence of Sekera? Clearly, Reinhart, Oesterle and Benning have better chances out of camp to make the team. So why not move them up?

This is only day one, but the Oilers are not shy on storylines to write about. It is expected the Oilers may go with multiple looks in the absence of their top three centers, but upon their return, there should be a much clearer picture of what Edmonton plans to do to start the season. Some early signs are already pointing in some obvious directions.

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.

Good to Have McDavid and Company Back

It would have been nice to see Team North America go on to face Canada in the World Cup of Hockey, but with a Russian victory over the Fins, I can't say I'm all that displeased. McDavid's North American squad will be disassembled and head back to their respective NHL teams to start training camp.


Coaches and Management


The return includes coach Todd McClellan and GM Peter Chiarelli who have a group of 61 players all trying to cement themselves positions on either the big club or somewhere in the system with a clear path toward a progressive 2016-17 season, wherever that may be. I'm sure the assistant staff could have run camp, but it will be nice to have the heavy hitters with the franchise from start to finish.

23 Man Roster


Photo By Connor Mah

Of the 61 players at camp, the Oilers have room for only 23. My list includes (in order by position):


  1. Connor McDavid
  2. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
  3. Leon Draisaitl
  4. Mark Letestu
  5. Anton Lander **
  6. Milan Lucic
  7. Benoit Pouliot
  8. Patrick Maroon
  9. Matt Hendricks
  10. Jordan Eberle
  11. Nail Yakupov **
  12. Jesse Puljujarvi
  13. Kris Versteeg
  14. Zack Kassian
  15. Oscar Klefbom
  16. Adam Larsson
  17. Andrej Sekera
  18. Brandon Davidson
  19. Mark Fayne
  20. Darnell Nurse **
  21. Eric Gryba
  22. Cam Talbot
  23. Jonas Gustavsson


Possible Changes

There are a couple possible changes (**). Anton Lander may get the nod ahead of Iiro Pakarinen, but he just as likely may not. Where Lander gets the nod for now, is that he can play center which gives the Oilers more options, but Lander has a short leash, to say the least.

Yakupov may also be on the move if Versteeg wins a spot (which I think he will). I'm not sure even if Versteeg is a lock for the team that Yak gets traded, but clearly, there are too many right-wingers in this scenario and Yakupov's name is out there. 

Finally, if the Oilers and free agent defenseman Kris Russell come to terms, I think Nurse starts in Bakersfield. 

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: Examining the Past and Future of Mark Fayne

The Edmonton Oilers didn't land the "big fish" defenseman people were hoping for this summer.  But, they are doing the next best thing and adding depth on defense with veteran experience, skill, size and an assortment of talents. In doing so, the Oilers are also making it possible to move forward without relying on players who may or may not fill a role outside their comfort zone. One of those players may be Mark Fayne.

Photo By Lisa Gansky

History 

Mark Fayne was brought over as a free agent signing in the summer of 2014. As a stay-at-home defenseman, he played in 74 games the following season and had 2 goals and 6 assists for 8 points. He wasn't signed by the Oilers to produce offense, but he was signed to solidify the Edmonton's blue line and was one of two analytic-driven signings — the other being Benoit Pouliot.

Pouliot has, for the most part, worked out well for Edmonton. Fayne, on the other hand, has struggled. Coming from New Jersey, it was expected that Fayne would bring to the Oilers some much-needed attention to defense. Sharpening his teeth in a defensive-minded system like the one employed by the Devils, then joining a team that was so bad in their own zone — like the Oilers have historically been — Fayne's skill set made him look like a valuable signing. The hope was that Fayne would be a piece meant to move Edmonton forward. Most would suggest he hasn't lived up to his billing.

But What About His Advanced Stats?


The easiest way to describe Fayne's move from the Devils to the Oilers is from a statement in a piece done by Bruce McCurdy of the Edmonton Journal. In it, McCurdy describes Fayne's troubles in two entirely different systems. The quote is below:



Because in 2014 the Oilers were learning that plus/minus wasn't the greatest indicator of possession and effectiveness in many situations, they used advanced statistics to target in on Fayne. In Jersey, he was tops in the NHL among shot suppression. Therefore, looking at his numbers, that decision made sense.

In 2012-13, Fayne had a CF% of 55.1% with Andy Greene and a CF% of 55.8% with Bryce Salvador. In 2013-14, Fayne played almost exclusively with Greene and had a CF% of 57.6%. The problem was, somewhere between 2013 and 2014, Fayne became so heavily reliant on Greene that when playing without him, Fayne's numbers started to suffer.

By the time Fayne reached Edmonton, he was used to playing with smart, steady and experienced defensemen. To be then shoved into the fire with players like Martin Marincin, Nikita Nikitin and a young Oscar Klefbom, Fayne wasn't prepared to handle the load that came with a much less talented and much less experienced group of players. He had a CF% of under 50% all year and was drowning.

Signs of Progress?


Things got so bad in Edmonton that during the 2015-16 season, Fayne was sent down to Edmonton's AHL club in Bakersfield in an attempt to help him get some of his game back. He wasn't there long and upon his return started to make improvements. By the end of the season, Fayne was in a better place mentally, had improved possession numbers playing with Andrej Sekera (CF% of 49.6%) and a more experienced Klefbom (CF% of 50%) and ready to play a more prominent role.


This coming season, Fayne will be asked to do what he does best — defend alongside more experienced NHL players like Sekera, Klefbom and Brandon Davidson. All of these players post better underlying numbers than any blueliner Fayne started his Oilers career with.

Fayne will also have the luxury of not being thrown into the fire. He's coming back to a team that has at least one right-handed defenseman (Adam Larsson) more suited to handle the big minutes and a defenseman in Sekera who has shown he can move to his off-side effectively. Fayne simply needs to fit into a system and not try to do too much.

Fayne's 2016-17 Season



There are a lot of people writing off Mark Fayne. I would suggest it's too early to do so. If he does come into camp in better shape and if he does come in with the knowledge he's not going to be asked to carry the entire right-side of the Oilers defense, he could have a bounce-back season.

Edmonton also isn't planning to put the same kind of pressure on Fayne they did in years past. They will be asking him to play a complimentary third-line to second-line role with the team. They're adding depth on right-side defense and while camp is only days away, are still looking to improve a historically weaker position.

Playing alongside either Davidson or Sekera, it wouldn't surprise me to see Fayne's possession numbers pop back up above the 50% marker. At 29 years of age, he's not too far gone to make a go of it in Edmonton. This will be a season that means everything to his future. Something tells me he'll 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.




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



EDMONTON OILERS: GRYBA, RUSSELL AND TUESDAY QUICK HITS

Typically, posts here discuss one topic and I spill my guts about an opinion or subject as things pop into my head. Today, there is so much going on in the world of the Edmonton Oilers, it felt more natural to provide a quick "gut spill" on a few topics.

Photo credit Dinur via Visual hunt  CC BY-NC-ND

Eric Gryba


He is coming to the Oilers camp on a PTO.


This is good news for the Oilers and I think Gryba wins a spot on the team. This could happen potentially even if the Oilers sign Kris Russell (which was the rumour yesterday). Gryba is a right-handed d-man and Russell a lefty. The only issue becomes what happens if Russell comes aboard and it moves Sekera over to the right. Fayne then moves down in the depth chart, potentially bumping Gryba.

Kris Russell



Bob Mackenzie of TSN made a little noise and then Dustin Nielson caused a bigger stir when he posted that the Oilers had offered Kris Russell a one-year contract.

I wrote a piece for the Hockey Writers suggesting Russell could make sense in a more limited and sheltered role for the Oilers. Use him as a power play specialist and some time on the penalty kill in combination with third-pairing minutes and he could be a good option. The big asterisk here is that the Oilers get him only on a one-year contract for $2.5 or under.

Leon Draisaitl


If there is a player to respond better to a quick benching than Draisaitl, I haven't seen it in years. After sitting for two periods. He comes back, gets a hat trick and then yesterday wins the game in overtime for Team Europe.


If Oiler fans are not excited for the year Draisaitl  might have, they've got to be missing a pulse. No matter where Draisaitl plays this season — wing or center — he's going to get lots of good looks from his coach after what he's showed in this tournament. This season could be a breakout campaign for the German-born player.

Should he post big numbers, it could pose some issues in terms of determining his next contract, but that's one of those things you deal with when it comes.


Ryan Nugent-Hopkins


"Nuge" looks like a different player than last season. In a closely contested battle with Team Russia, Nugent-Hopkins was one of the best players for Team North America. He was everywhere.  Nathan McKinnon got the second star of the game, but I'd argue that McKinnon doesn't have the game he has without Nugent-Hopkins on the ice with him for much of that game.

Like Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins is using this tournament to show he's ready to have a strong season for the Oilers. It will be interesting to see where they use him as McClellan played the holy hell out of Nugent-Hopkins in the final frame of that game yesterday and Team North America almost made that comeback.
It's unfortunate too because the entire team played well with the exception of goaltender Tim Murray who let in four goals on four shots. If not for that performance, Team North America doesn't lose that game.


Connor McDavid


What can you say that hasn't already been said? Sometimes you hear the "hype-train" coming and you think it's a bit too much, but not with McDavid. The speed he flew down the wing in yesterday's contest and the pass he made to Auston Matthews was a thing of beauty.

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 and Their 2016-17 Responsibilites

The Edmonton Oilers need to start winning hockey games. It's an easy thing to say, but not so much an easy thing to do. If it were easy, Edmonton wouldn't have seen a decade of darkness, nor hope for the potential light that comes with drafting Connor McDavid.


To turn the ship around will take the efforts of many. Some will play a pivotal, but complimentary role, while others will see the pressure laid squarely upon their shoulders. Who carries the largest load heading into the 2016-17 NHL season for the Oilers? Where are the expectations the highest? Here are the responsibilities of Edmonton's core group of players.

Connor McDavid


McDavid will be the next Edmonton Oilers captain and unlike a number of the Oiler captains before him, also Edmonton's best player. He will lead the team in all areas and simply put, if his season isn't a successful one, the Oilers' season won't be a successful one.

A successful 2016-17 will see McDavid pot at least 80 points, play close to 82 games and stay productive. Doing so will bring confidence to the rest of an Oilers team who is aware that they go as their captain will go.

Milan Lucic

Lucic is coming to Edmonton as a free agent with the expectation that he will produce. Not only is he pegged to play regularly on the top line with McDavid, but he's essentially replacing Taylor Hall as Edmonton's top left-winger. Edmonton has depth at left-wing, but Lucic can't play poorly enough to give the coaching staff a reason to consider putting anyone else in his spot.


A season of less than 50 points will be seen as a poor season for Lucic. A season of 60 points would make him an excellent complimentary piece to McDavid and a season of 70 points or more would be a welcome and fantastic surprise. Lucic's job will not only be to work as a strong pair with Edmonton's most talented player, but also protect him.

McDavid will be pitted against the oppositions toughest players and Lucic will need being his veteran leadership and presence to be there as insurance. Should McDavid get injured, (of course depending on the circumstances of the injury) many may look to Lucic as reason, excuse or cause if McDavid misses any significant time. Fair or not, that will be something Lucic will need to deal with all season. It will Lucic's responsibility to produce points, protect his captain and keep his spot as the top-line left-winger on the Edmonton Oilers.

Adam Larsson

Larsson is a shut-down defender. Hopefully fans and coaches don't look past his natural abilities and expect him to all of a sudden become an offensive dynamo. He'll be expected to play big minutes on Edmonton's top-pair, but his responsibility should be to pick up where he left off in New Jersey as one of their top-defensive defenders.

Larsson will also need to mesh well with Oscar Klefbom. Last year Larsson had one of the most underrated defensemen in the NHL in Andy Greene as his defensive partner. It will be Larsson's job to show he can produce similar results with a different defensive partner. The Oilers haven't had a top-unit pair who can play effectively against the NHL's best offensive weapons in years, and all bets are on Larsson being that guy. If Larsson's effectiveness was a result of Andy Greene's play, Edmonton could be in real trouble.


Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

Nugent-Hopkins needs to have a bounce-back season. He's still a great center and it appears so far in a short window at the World Cup of Hockey, things are looking to get back on track for him. That said, if he doesn't produce as Edmonton's second-line center, his time in Edmonton could be rocky, maybe even limited.

There were rumors abound this summer that Edmonton was willing to move Nugent-Hopkins to obtain an offensive blueliner, but how much truth there is to those rumors are unknown. Nugent-Hopkins early work this summer has quieted some of the vocal haters and it's clear the Oilers like Nugent-Hopkins' all-around two-way game. This is important for him to have a big season.


Much the same way he's been deployed in this year's World Cup of Hockey, he's often deployed against the toughest competition in any game he plays. He's the only center Edmonton has of his kind. That said, if he doesn't add more offense, his spot on that second line may be given to a player like Leon Draisaitl.

A successful season for Nugent-Hopkins is another 50 point or more season, strong two-way play, better faceoff numbers and being able to keep that second-line center position all season.

Other Notables


Andrej Sekera - Being a reliable number three defenseman taking any big minutes not chewed up by Larsson and Klefbom.

Oscar Klefbom - stay healthy and prove he's a top-pair defender

Cam Talbot - avoid streaks of poor play, get in 70 games and prove he's an NHL starter.

Jordan Eberle - 70 points and 30 goals alongside McDavid. He'll need to be better at defensive back-checking and have fewer streaks of games where he doesn't score goals. Eberle needs to be Edmonton's leading goal scorer this season.

Leon Draisaitl - to produce points without Taylor Hall. He'll need to find chemistry working with other linemates and a 50 point season would be a good 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.