Archive for 2016-11-20

How Dangerous is the Oilers New Third Line?

The Edmonton Oilers posted their projected lineup for tonight's game against Arizona and it's one of the stronger lineups Edmonton has iced all season.

This is no knock on Anton Slepyshev who has played extremely well for the Oilers since being promoted. That said, this set of 12 forwards could be Edmonton's strongest to date. It brings back Mark Letestu and Benoit Pouliot, both of whom deserve to be in the lineup.

It also sits Matt Hendricks who made his return a few games back but hasn't exactly found his groove. He's going to get a chance to rest and watch. Pouliot, who was scratched as a result of the combination of some poor decisions and some returning players, slots back into the lineup with something to prove on the third line.

Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The Third Line

It's Edmonton's third line of Pouliot, Leon Draisaitl and Drake Caggiula that has me the most intrigued. This is a mix-match of skill, size, power, two-way hockey sense and experience. Pouliot, in particular, is a better hockey player than he's shown to date this season.

Can Pouliot find a player with whom he has some chemistry? Is that player the powerful and productive Draisaitl? Leon has 16 points in 21 games and eight points in his last five. Meanwhile, Caggiula has two assists in his three games for Edmonton this season and has the speed and skill to make this a potent group.

All three have the ability to create a cycle and hold possession. It should make it interesting in a match-up tonight against an Arizona squad that doesn't have three lines that can match the three Edmonton could ice at any given moment.


Edmonton heads into Arizona having won three in a row. The Coyotes on the other hand have struggled. Now 6-10-2, this "should" be a contest that favours the Oilers. I say should because Arizona's record against the Oilers of late is staggering. Arizona has a point in every game against the Oilers for 23 straight games. They are 24-1-4 in their last 29 games.

The biggest factor will be the Oilers ability to draw penalties and capitalize on them. Arizona has the fourth best penalty kill in the NHL at home, but the Oilers power play is clicking. If Edmonton can manage the status quo, they'll be good. If for some reason they regress into the power play that went 0-for-12, they could have some trouble.

This is the first of five games this season against the Coyotes and starting off on the right foot is paramount to setting the tone in this series.

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

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

The Expansion Draft Changes Trade Plans During the Season

With the Las Vegas Golden Knights finally announcing their franchise name, a whole new explosion of articles on the expansion draft have popped up, most of them dealing with whom the Oilers will protect on their roster. One of the topics that rarely seems to come up as often, is what the Oilers do, management wise until that expansion draft takes place.

Below are a few things to consider if you're GM Peter Chiarelli when it comes to trades. (In future posts, we'll take a look at other transactions like extensions and free agent signings.)

Trade Buyer or Seller?

The Oilers look like they may be headed to the playoffs for the first time in a long time. Yes, I know that the season is still young, but this team looks like a team that could obtain one of those eight Western Conference spots. As the Oilers creep closer to that position, they'll either need to become a trade deadline buyer or seller.

Typically, the Oilers are sellers. They dump pieces at the deadline for draft picks or prospects as other teams load up for their final playoff runs. Doing this every year means the Oilers need to find viable pieces every summer and sometimes when your pro-scouting department is a bit iffy, that's easier said than done. It will be nice to see the Oilers as buyers, but this year, it will be a different marketplace.

NHL Expansion 

The way the expansion draft is set to work, Las Vegas will have a crack at a player from each team. That team will have the option to protect eight skaters and a goaltender or seven forwards, three defensemen and a goaltender. If you choose the latter, should you be a team with more than three excellent defensemen, you'll likely lose one.

What this means for Edmonton is that they should not and probably cannot add another defense contract that extends longer than the end of this season. Right now the Oilers have Adam Larsson, Oscar Klefbom and Andrej Sekera as their top-three defensemen under extended contracts. All three will be protected. The rest of the blue line is made up of Kris Russell (UFA), Darnell Nurse and Matthew Benning (entry-level deals), Eric Gryba (UFA), and Brandon Davidson (often injured).

Adding another contract, for a player you want to hang onto, moves Edmonton into the position that they either risk losing one of the Klefbom, Larsson or the new addition. Andrej Sekera's no-movement clause makes him untouchable.

If the Oilers make a trade for a defenseman at the deadline, it would need to be for a defenseman who's contract will expire, or one they can and are willing to lose in the expansion draft. Meaning, if you give up a lot to get this player, you are simply "renting" by all senses of the definition. Merely renting a player changes the trade in a major way.

The Exception

If the Oilers are willing to move an Andrej Sekera (I'm not sure I would if Edmonton is in the market for a rental at the deadline), they'd first have to convince him to waive his no-movement clause. Should they do so, Edmonton can sign a player like Kris Russell and protect him, or they can add a longer-term defenseman by trade, protecting him too. It changes the "big three", but it allows Edmonton have a bit more control.

If Sekera does not waive, Edmonton will likely lose any player they add that has value around the league. It's a catch-22.

The Most Likely Option

If the Oilers end up becoming trade deadline buyers, they'll be looking for a mere rental, nothing more. Edmonton will have to understand that when the season ends, the chances are good that player will not be an Oiler coming into the 2017-18 season.

We can only hope that when that time comes, Edmonton, not having been a trade deadline buyer in a long time, doesn't give up the moon and stars to obtain anyone.

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

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

Benoit Pouliot An Example of an Advanced Statistics Failure

Depending on who you ask, Benoit Pouliot either is or isn't an effective player. When he was signed by the Edmonton Oilers in summer of 2014, the "fancy stats" crowd loved the deal. They cited his possession stats, his shots per 60 minutes, his Corsi and his relative Corsi all as reasons for fans to be excited about the player Edmonton would be getting. At the time, not a lot of people knew what those terms meant like they do now.

Pouliot's signing came at a time in which advanced statistics were really starting to find a home with the NHL media who covered the sport. NHL teams were publicly beginning to pay attention to the underlying numbers and players who weren't being thrown the big dollars prior, we're starting to get a little consideration. Pouliot was one of those players.

A Poor History of Free Agent Signings

In previous years, the Oilers hadn't done a very effective job of recognizing real NHL talent and the pro scouting department was beginning to take a lot of heat for not finding players Edmonton could plug into the lineup and make a difference. Pouliot was signed at the same time as Mark Fayne and both were stats-heavy type free agent signings. Both were also hoped to be players who could change Edmonton's poor free agency track record.

With that context in mind and knowing that Edmonton was going to lean a bit more heavily upon analytic favorites, Pouliot was a gift from possession heaven. Before joining the Oilers, Pouliot had six seasons where he produced at a rate of 1.93 points per 60 minutes 5v5. During that time he also averaged 7.38 shots per 60 minutes, shot at 11.74%, and had a Corsi For a percentage of 52.5% with a CFRelTM of 2.7%. There were few forwards better than him and available on the free agent market. Those numbers earned Pouliot $4 million per year over five years.

(click to enlarge photo)

Where the "Stats Guys" Were Wrong

With all that said, those who didn't follow advanced statistical data as closely thought the Oilers overpaid for him. In his entire NHL career — which at the time of his signing was now in its ninth pro season —  Pouliot had never cracked 36 points. He'd had three seasons where he'd come close to playing a full schedule, but he was never really a player who made an impact on the score sheet. His effectiveness was solely hidden in those advanced numbers the "stats guys" wanted fans to look at so favorably.

Even in Edmonton, where in his first two seasons Pouliot's advance statistics were strong, he wasn't a big-time difference-maker. In his first season, he could have been as he'd scored 19 goals in 58 games, but he missed a quarter of the season and ended up with 34 points. He's regressed ever since.

This season, Pouliot is having his worst NHL season to date and his advanced stats numbers this season have started to hit the toilet. He's played 18 games and has three goals and four points. He's on pace for just over 18 points and he was a healthy scratch on Saturday as the Oilers snapped a five-game losing streak to beat the Dallas Stars. The Oilers didn't miss him.

To Make Matters Worse

Here's where things get interesting. Despite his wonderful advanced statistical numbers, Pouliot has never been the type of player that can be trusted. He takes awful penalties at the most inopportune times and often in the offensive zone or in close games where he completely deflates the team with his inability to temper his frustration. Those penalties have cost the Oilers points in the standings and victories on the ice. And that's not just this season. He's been that way since his arrival in 2014.

Pouliot is the first to admit his mistakes, but the key you want to see from a player who errs is that he's learning from those mistakes and not making them time and time again. Not so with Pouliot. Now in his third season with the Oilers, he's caught the ire of coach Todd McLellan on more than one occasion and he's been benched and now scratched to make room for a player that is less likely to cost his team.

NHL Expansion

For fans fed up with Pouliot's play and hoping that Edmonton might lose him in the expansion draft to Las Vegas, something to consider is that Edmonton has two more years to cover Pouliot's $4 million dollar salary per season. That's a high enough dollar figure to where a team might not want to trade for him or Vegas may not want to draft him in the upcoming NHL Expansion Draft. Prior to this season, Pouliot likely had the best odds of being snagged. That has to have changed since opening night.

What do you think of Benoit Pouliot? Is he still a talented enough player that his statistics this season are just an anomaly of the player he typically is and can be? Or, was he never the player the advanced stats community wanted us to believe he was?

I'm always of the opinion that it's unfair to go too hard on a player who's snake-bitten and can get back what he's lost with the proper motivation. I'm not sold however that Pouliot is that player. If it weren't for his history of terrible penalties, games missed due to injury or temporary chemistry with other forwards, I'd say maybe. But, in my opinion, those obstacles are just a bit too much for me to overcome to believe Pouliot will ever be anything other than an advanced statistics failure.

This is one example of a time where the stats crowd got it wrong.

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

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