Archive for 2016-11-13

When the Injuries Heal: Matt Hendricks

Anton Lander was placed on waivers by the Edmonton Oilers on Friday. The reason for this may be the impending return of Matt Hendricks to the lineup.

Hendricks was diagnosed with a lower-body injury early in the pre-season and hasn't played a game since. There was a time the Oilers were on a winning streak and it looked like it might be tough to find a place for Hendricks. Oh, how times have changed.


Matt Hendricks

Hendricks is a fourth-line grinder. He's got a little skill and speed to go with it, but his biggest attribute is that he provides energy for a team that could use it. I wrote earlier in an article about Hendricks time coming a close the following:

Rough isn't new for Hendricks. A soldier on the ice, he's made a career out of doing the dirty work as a player in the NHL. He's a veteran center/winger who night in and night out arguably puts in more effort than any other Oiler. He's also the type of player every coach wishes they had more of. He's just no longer a terribly talented hockey player — at least not by the standards that current NHL GM's use to qualify players of importance and contract renewals. He is getting older and his underlying numbers aren't good. He went this entire past season as a negative Corsi player, barely cracked the fourth line and offered little to no scoring or point production. Edmonton has prospects in the system who are bubbling from under and looking to take his job. It's only a matter of time before they will. 
Hendricks came to Edmonton from the Nashville Predators. In the 2013–14 season, he struggled to meet the expectations of his new contract with the Predators, producing just four points in 44 games and he was traded to the Oilers in exchange for goaltender Devan Dubnyk. In his second season with the Oilers, Hendricks rebounded offensively with 16 points in 71 games. Hendricks' work ethic was rewarded in the form of a third nomination for the Masterton Memorial Trophy.

Where Hendricks Fits


Matt Hendricks may be the spark Edmonton needs to get them out of this slump, but he's not going to be anything more than a bottom-line player. He will penalty kill, take the odd faceoff and forecheck, so his contributions shouldn't be understated. That said, he won't likely provide the scoring punch Edmonton needs as they dwell over these last five games near the bottom of the NHL in goals scored.

Will he be an improvement over Anton Lander? Probably.


Long-Term


This is likely Hendricks' last year with the Oilers. He's 36 and he's on the cusp of being one of those players who will spend the summer looking for a team to give him a shot as an unrestricted free agent. He'll need to play extremely well and avoid further injury over these last 60 games to really make an impact and extend his NHL career.

It will be nice to have Hendricks back, but I don't expect it to be a long-term thing. If he's an Oiler by this time next season, I'd be surprised.

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.

When the Injuries Heal: Drake Caggiula

The Edmonton Oilers lost their fourth straight game on Tuesday. They severely outshot the Anaheim Ducks and most of the possession numbers were in favor of Edmonton, however, they fell by a score of 4-1 and are now tied for first in the Pacific Division.

There are a lot of people who are suggesting that a couple changes are required. Maybe giving backup goaltender Jonas Gustavsson a start? Switching the lines up? Some have even gone as far as suggesting making a trade. For me, I look at two things.


First, the situation will change naturally. Edmonton is hosting one of the worst shooting percentages in recent NHL history and it's not bound to last over any lengthy period of time. If Edmonton keeps shooting, the goals will eventually come. Second, the Oilers are starting to really miss a player like Drake Caggiula.

Drake Caggiula

Caggiula was a free agent college signing this summer who came in to the Oilers organization with a clean slate. He was, for the most part, an unknown that had a few things going for him. He was fast, he was skilled and for a smaller sized player, he played a bigger style game.

He showed up at the Oilers camp and from day one, made positive noise. He was feisty, could be moved around the lineup and approached camp like it was his last, ready to do anything to make the team. Caggiula popped in a couple goals, but stood out in the Oilers camp games versus the University of Alberta and at rookie camp where Edmonton swept the tournament against the Jets, Flames and Canucks.

Nobody was surprised when he was announced as having made the NHL roster.

Where Caggiula Fits


When Caggiula went down to an injury in preseason, it was kind of a quiet thing. He hurt his hip and originally it wasn't talked about as being too serious. Then, he missed more and more games. It was a shame because Caggiula is a very versatile forward.

He can play center or wing and he can fit in the bottom-six or top-six alongside more skilled forwards. When the Oilers lost Kris Versteeg and then traded Nail Yakupov for peanuts, Caggiula really could have come in handy.

Today, and on this team, Caggiula is probably a third line center, potentially a second line winger. What he gives Edmonton is options. Options to do something like move Leon Draisaitl off the third line and into a wingers spot on the right side on the second line. It's a move the Oilers have discussed internally, but with a lack at center depth, have yet to try. Caggiula gives them the opportunity to.

Long-Term


Caggiula is definitely a long-term asset for Edmonton and a player their excited to have return. Some of the Oilers other injuries will cause debate about bringing them in and potentially moving out a quality player. Caggiula, despite not having played a single NHL game will not.

He's got drive, character, tenacity, skill and speed and the Oilers lack depth at positions he can play. He's young and he's on a friendly contract for two years. He's a player the Oilers want to come in and have immediately contribute.

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.


Game 17: Early Goal Syndrome

The Edmonton Oilers are set to face the traditionally very tough to play Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday. It's not exactly the match-up when you choose when your team has allowed goals in the first two minutes of games five times in the last seven contests.

That said, Edmonton is going to have get past the fact that in fifty percent of the Oilers games this season, they've been scored in within the first four minutes of period number one.

When you think about it, that's an absolutely ridiculous statistic. And, it clearly makes a difference in the outcomes of the games, as Edmonton — a team who has lost only six times this season —  has lost four of those early goal games.



The Defense


This isn't just the fault of the defensemen, but they are struggling. Much more so than in the early games of the season, players like Oscar Klefbom and Andrej Sekera are losing their men and the forwards are forced to try and make up for missed assignments. It has been painful to watch.

Kris Russell and Brandon Davidson being out with injuries is not helping the situation and Edmonton is finding it difficult to maintain their potent offense when continually trying to come from behind early in games. The Oilers blue line is not the most offensive-minded to begin with, but when forced to stop the opposition from extending a lead, and after only a couple minutes of game action, there really is little hope to get help from the back-end when trying to tie a game and then eventually get that come-from-behind victory.

The Offense


Part of the problem is the forwards. For example, both Jordan Eberle and Milan Lucic have been demoted off the top line, mainly due to missed coverage that directly cost the Oilers a goal. Call it lackadaisical play, call it miscommunication or call it sheer ignorance, the kinds of gaffs the Oilers forwards on making on these opposition goals have gotten under the skin of the coaching staff.

Currently Edmonton's top line is Connor McDavid, Patrick Maroon and Tyler Pitlick. It may stay that way until the Oilers have a game they can be both proud of and victorious.


The Anaheim Ducks


Edmonton will open a three-game road trip against Anaheim. The Oilers are still tops in the Western Conference and the Pacific Division, but San Jose and Anaheim are nipping at their heels. To say this is a big game is putting it mildly.

The Oilers will play the Ducks five times this season. It's important in this first tilt to set the tone early, which means Edmonton needs to avoid the early goal against and try to come out firing. And it isn't just about the quantity of shots, but the quality.

When Edmonton out-shoots their opponents by more than 10 shots, they've lost all four games. When they've been out-shot by their opponents by 10 or more shots, they've won all four games. That wouldn't sound like it should make a lot of sense, but those wins came as a result of quality scoring chances.

If Edmonton can find a way to stop the early goal and get quality opportunities by crashing the net and making life difficult in the offensive zone, they stand a chance.

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.

When the Injuries Heal: Zack Kassian

In our first of the series "When the Injuries Heal" we took a look at Kris Russell. Russell seems an obvious choice to be immediately inserted back into the lineup at the second-pair right-handed defensive spot he occupied when the went down. Less obvious is what to do with the next player in the series and a player who is scheduled to make his return tonight against the New York Rangers, Zack Kassian.


Flickr Photo By Loxy!!

Zack Kassian


Kassian has done well to reinvigorate his NHL career. He's also been up and down in terms of his play for the Oilers this season. Due to some unexpected changes at the start of the season, where at first Kassian was likely looking at third or fourth line right wing duty, he's been often played on the second line and higher up than he should be.

It's not Kassian's fault that Edmonton dealt Nail Yakupov, lost Kris Versteeg to a contract and Jesse Puljujarvi is struggling a bit with his consistency. Kassian is doing his best to keep up, but he's not a second-line player in the NHL. He now has four points in 12 games and on a few nights, been a pleasant surprise. Ideally, he's a third line energy player — fourth line if the team has solid depth.

Where Kassian Fits

Kassian is coming back from his injury against the Rangers on Sunday. Where should the Oilers put him? Does he go back on the second line where Edmonton is clearly having issues finding a suitable right-winger? Or, does he go in a spot that's more suited for his style of play and level of production?

Oilers Now host and color commentator for the Edmonton Oilers, Bob Stauffer tweeted that the Oilers are going to be keeping the status quo in terms of lines one and two and Kassian will see third line duty.



For now, this makes a lot of sense, but the Oilers will likely be keeping a close eye on Puljujarvi. Puljujarvi is cleary having issues adjusting and against the Dallas Stars on Friday, only saw 9:47 seconds of playing time, none of which was on any of Edmonton's three power play opportunities. This leaves the Oilers in a tricky spot. If Puljujarvi continues to show signs that he's not quite ready, will the Oilers move Kassian up?

Right wing is clearly the Oilers weakest position. Eberle is a first line player and the Oilers currently have a lot of three's and four's. Edmonton is also currently getting a lot out of Tyler Pitlick, but it's a lot to suggest that he's a second-line player in the NHL. If Pitlick plays well, Kassian may see the fourth line. If Pitlick and Puljujarvi falter, Kassian gets the second line minutes.

It's an interesting battle between three wingers with completely different playing styles.

Related: Pitlick Making Case for NHL Expansion Protection



Long-Term


Kassian is likely not a long-term player for the Oilers. But, he could change that if he comes back and picks up his pace. He was projecting about 27 points for the season and that's not really enough to make him a player the Oilers will keep with younger options knocking on the door.

He's on a short-term one-year deal and likely is the type of player Edmonton looks at every summer and gives a contract to once all their other plans have been made.

What would you do? Would you play Kassian on the second, third or fourth line?

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.