Category Archives: Oilers

All Edmonton Oilers related talk

A Lot of Growth Needed, But A Lot of Growth is Probable

Before I begin, allow me to bitch.  Last Friday I did my top ten prospects piece, and the one omission I didn’t like having was William Lagesson.  Didn’t even give him an honourable mention.  I didn’t like going with 16 instead of 15, let alone 17.  This bothered me, because every time I’ve watched the kid play I’ve REALLY liked his game.  But I leaned towards guys who were either a little younger or had a little more upside.  So what happens?  He was probably the best D-man they had in Penticton and the NAIT/MacEwan game.  Of course he was…

 

Is this not the weirdest thing imaginable?!  It was only a year ago at this time where we were all just praying that everything came together and the Oilers could somehow sneak into the playoffs if everything went as expected.  Now, just 12 months later (and really, not 12 months because we still had these thoughts around mid October), people are picking the Oilers to win the West, and some are even picking them to win the Cup.  And it’s not crazy…which is the craziest part of all.  But let’s keep in mind, as of today this is not an elite team, it just has the potential to be.

 

I thought about doing a piece on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to start the pre season, and I likely still will.  I have a love/hate fandom with Nuge.  I see what he could be, and pull like hell for him to get there.  He hasn’t progressed nearly as quickly as you’d expect a 1st overall pick to progress to this point, and so half the time I just want him dealt for a 3rd line centre who fits the cap situation much better.

 

But he’s still on the club, and the one thing I keep seeing with RNH is that he still hasn’t gained the strength he needs to take his game to the next level.  The way he plays, the way he skates, it just looks to me that if he starts gaining that “man strength” that his game will go to another level.  It’s not really something you can develop, it’s just something that eventually develops for all of us.  Likely the biggest area we’ll notice it is in his skating.  Right now he’s a solid skater, but he’s still so lanky.  On occasion he looks like his skating goes to another level, but it isn’t consistent.  We’ll likely notice it in other area’s too like his shot, strength on the puck (obviously), etc.  But as he gains strength I believe we’ll see his explosiveness and high end speed very visibly improve.

 

We always look for comparisons, and with Nuge I see guys often compare him to Pavel Datsyuk, even dating back to his draft year (I believe Ken Hitchcock made that comparison).  But the one that never seems to be mentioned, and is a lot more realistic, is Kyle Turris.  And Turris is a kid who had a very similar game and build to RNH when he was drafted (B.C. kid too).  It wasn’t until the 13-14 season (seven years after being drafted), which Turris game really took off and he started to become the player most expected him to be.  I don’t know this, but I wonder if it wasn’t the same thing where Turris just needed to gain that strength.  This is season number seven for RNH.

 

It isn’t as if RNH isn’t good right now, he is.  But I still feel like one of these seasons he’s going to finally take that next step.

 

Sometimes we all forget that Nuge is still only 24 years old.  It seemed like last year, we forgot how old a lot of these kids are.  McDavid, Draisaitl, Klefbom, Larsson, Caggiula, Strome, Nurse, Benning, Puljujarvi, Slepyshev, Khaira, Brossoit, and of course the aforementioned Nugent-Hopkins are all currently 24 or younger.  I think it’s safe to assume big point totals from McDavid and Draisaitl.  Klefbom and Larsson for me established themselves as a very capable top pairing last season, so it’s safe to assume that remains the same as well.  But the rest of the guys on that list all have the potential to greatly improve.

 

I’ve heard some talk about how worried they are about the team replacing Jordan Eberle’s production.  They all seem to be looking at Strome to do that.  I don’t see it that way.  The potential replacement for Eberle to me is Puljujarvi.  Is anyone going to be surprised if Puljujarvi is a better player than Eberle was last season?

 

The kid has ridiculous potential.  I think of guys like Rick Nash, obviously Blake Wheeler whom he often is compared to, Jakub Voracek, Filip Forsberg, this is the type of player I’m expecting Puljujarvi to become in time.  That dominant winger who can carry his own line.  Obviously I’m not expecting that to happen this season, but what I don’t think is far fetched is for him to establish himself with the team this season, and a 45-55 point season with much better board and defensive zone play than Eberle brought is very attainable for Puljujarvi.

 

Having said all that, it is possible that Puljujarvi begins the season in Bakersfield.  They did this with Draisaitl, and it seemed to really ignite a fire in him.  But others are capable of putting up similar numbers to what Eberle did.  Caggiula, Slepyshev, obviously Strome is in that mix.  But even then, they wouldn’t need one of these guys to get to that level.  35-40 points out of all three of them, is that crazy?

 

The most vital spot though that they need a kid to take it to another level is on the blueline and stepping into the top four.

 

Darcy McLeod has brought this up quite a bit during the off season, and I believe he wrote a piece on it too.  You really need a legitimate top four on your blueline, and with Sekera not only out for the first few months, but likely unable to get back to that level all season, they badly will need one of Nurse or Benning to take a step.

 

To start the season, I like one of two ideas.  Option A for me would be to have Benning playing with Russell on the second pairing and I’m guessing that’s what they’ll do.  Option B is a lot of re-arranging.  Nurse looked damn good playing with Larsson the little time he did in the playoffs last spring.  I realize it was a limited sample size, and most of it was for the 7-1 ass kicking in game six against the Ducks, not exactly high pressure.  But speaking as a guy who has played D most of his life (albeit not anywhere near a level I’d brag about) I can tell you that playing with a guy like Larsson just makes things so much easier.  He’s the type of defenceman you can trust will be in the right spot at the right time.  He has a calming effect, which is exactly what Nurse needs in his game.   So perhaps McLellan at some point goes with Nurse and Larsson as the shutdown combo, maybe puts Klefbom with Benning on the second pair which would help Benning out, and then having Russell with either Gryba or Yohann Auvitu.  It’s a lot more balance, but really creates a lot more question marks.  Could Larsson carry the top pair?  Could Nurse handle matching against top lines each night?  Is Klefbom good enough to bring Benning up to that level?

 

Back to Nurse for a minute, and if you’ve read my stuff in the past then you know how high I’ve always been on Nurse.  The fact that he’s had some really rough stretches in his first couple of seasons doesn’t overly bother me like it does others.  I just feel like he has everything you need to be number one in the league some day.  The size, the toughness, the skating, and the IQ.  Some might disagree with the IQ part because he’s often trying to do too much on the ice.  But this is a kid who was the OHL scholastic player of the year in his draft season, you listen to him interviewed and you can tell how bright he is, I just believe with the combination of that talent, IQ and work ethic that he’s going to put it all together.  Can he get to the level of a Doughty or Keith someday?  Definitely not expecting that.  But Seabrook, or another Klefbom?  I think that’s very possible.  If I had to point out one thing he needs to work, for me it’s his vision above his defensive positioning.  Positioning will come with experience, vision is something he’ll have to work on.  You obviously can’t teach elite vision, but I definitely believe you can improve it to the level he’ll need it at to become a top pairing D-man.

 

Benning is funny because he’s the exact opposite of Nurse with how he plays.  He’s so subtle and plays such a mature game.  While Nurse still has immense upside, it’s tougher to see that with Benning.  He’s a kid who doesn’t do anything flashy, nor does he have that one attribute that really stands out.  But the Oilers don’t even need much more growth out of him.  He already looked solid when he received limited top four minutes last season.  So he just needs to take one more subtle step, preferably this season.  If he can establish himself as a dependable second pairing D-man this season, it would be massive for the club.

 

I’m definitely not saying my expectations are for any of these kids to reach there ceiling this season.  But I am saying that the Oilers have a ridiculous amount of kids with good-great upside.  Right now, with little growth from most of these guys, the Oilers look like a team that should make the playoffs and are at least a threat in the West.  If a few of these guys start to pop though, and you have to assume that at least a couple will, this team could go to another level.  That’s not to mention all the bullets Peter Chiarelli will have to fire at the trade deadline.  All of his 2018 draft picks, and a prospect pool that is as deep as it’s ever been, so the Oilers GM will be able to really load up at the trade deadline.

 

I understand the concern for some of the holes on the roster.  Nobody is ever quite comfortable until players prove they can fill their roles.  But despite how much this team grew last season, it’s ridiculous the ceiling this group has.  If just a few of them have significant growth, this team goes from good to elite and some of those Cup final prognostications get real.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Edmonton Oilers Pre-Season Top 10 Prospects

I’m back!  Two months off, still feels like it’s mid summer outside, still not getting paid for this shit, but regardless of all that, I’m back.  For most of you, I’m sure it sucks that summer is over (almost).  Not in the slightest for me…but maybe for you.  For me, I like the fall.  I like winter.  I don’t hate summer by any means, but I also don’t see a lot of lake time during the summer.  So while those maybe six days of the summer that are hot, sunny, little to no wind, and can be out on the water.  Golfing?  Not if it’s hotter than 22-25 or so.  Ball?  Same thing.  So summer isn’t bad, but the truth is in my experience is that it’s a bit of a myth once you are an adult.  The truth is, there are really only a handful of days an adult can really enjoy summer depending on your line of work, and the rest is just hot and dry with zero going on…especially if the Jays suck.  I hope I’m not pissing all over how much you love summer, not my intention.  My intention is to show you just how terrific fall is!  And really, now with football in full swing as of Sunday and Penticton this weekend, and the weather being easier to live with, it’s one of the best times of the year.

 

I hope you all know what I’m talking about when I say Penticton, but for those of you who are maybe awful people…I’m talking about the rookie tournament which will take place this weekend.  And with that being the case, I felt like it was a good time to do another top 10 list looking at the Oilers prospects.  I did this list right after the game seven loss to the Ducks, and it seemed to be well received, so with the draft having taken since that time place it’s perhaps a good time to hit the refresh button.

 

About a month ago, I seen Oilers Nation did a top 20 prospect list.  Now, they likely have done their own prospect rankings for a while, I’m not a big Oilers Nation guy (nothing against the guys doing it at all, just find it can hurt my own point of view to read too much “Oilers-centric” stuff).  I did read their top 10, and frankly disagree with a lot of what they had, but it’s just a different point of view.  From what I could tell, they lean more towards which prospects are the most ready to step in.  For me, I put a lot more stock into a players ceiling, and the chances I feel they have of reaching that ceiling.

 

Just like the last time around, I’ll be adding in some players (this time six) who I felt just narrowly missed getting into the top ten, which I somewhat put into order, but honestly didn’t give it a ton of thought.  So please don’t crush me for the order in which the first six are put in.  I guess you could be a real asshole and say this is a top 16…but don’t.  Nobody likes “that” guy.

 

I added in videos for most of the kids this time around, and a big thanks to Edmonton Prospect Watch on YouTube for giving me the green light a few months back for using these, and I’d HIGHLY recommend if you’re an Oilers fan and you want to follow the prospects that you subscribe to the account.  Great way to see what’s on the way.

 

Before I begin, let me just say that aside from what I believe will be a impactful error by the organization in failing to address the need for a centre in the system this past June, the Oilers appear to be drafting MUCH better under Peter Chiarelli’s watch.  The 2015 draft to this point has been a home run with the picks they had to work with (McDavid aside), 2016 outside of one slip up was the same (and they had many more picks to work with), and last year while I hated not getting a centre until the 6th round, they did do a great job once again of really loading up with quality kids.

 

Dmitri Samorukov  Guelph  OHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Acquired: 3rd Round, 84th Overall, 2017 Draft

I wasn’t a huge fan of the pick, mainly given the Oilers depth on the left side of the ice.  Had I been running the draft, I would have used the two 3rd rounders to jump up to the last pick of the 2nd if I had to so I could pick one of the projected 2nd round centres that were still on the board (likely Morgan Geekie).  But they didn’t, so I have to look at the kids they got and there is a lot to like about Samorukov.  He’s raw, he’s got a lot of filling out to do, real good skater, and plays aggressive.  Just yesterday signed his ELC with the team, so he’s officially in the pipeline and I’d say that speaks to how excited the brass was to land him in the draft.

 

John Marino  Harvard  NCAA

Pos: D  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 190  Shot: R  Age: 20

Acquired: 6th Round, 154th Overall, 2015 Draft

In the 6th round of the draft, I feel like you have to stick to a few rules.  If it’s me, I’m looking for kids who have decent size, skates real well, and a high IQ.  Marino checks all those boxes.  Obviously he’ll go back to Harvard for at least another season in 2018, and likely 2019 as well, so we’re talking about a kid who is still a long ways away.  But he took a pretty big step in his development in his freshman season at Harvard and should see an increased role this season, although he does have Calgary 2016 3rd rounder Adam Fox to contend with.  Here’s a shift by shift look at Marino from a game vs the Nard-dog’s favourite team from March 18th of last season.

 

Stuart Skinner  Lethbridge  WHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 205  Glove: L  Age: 19

Acquired: 3rd Round, 78th Overall, 2017 Draft

As I touched on with Samorukov, I was against what they did with this pick.  I felt they easily could have packaged both third round picks to move up to the end of the second round or the beginning of the third and got a damn good centre that they desperately needed.  Had they done this, I would have felt the Oilers absolutely crushed the draft for the third straight year.  Instead, they fell in love with Skinner.  Having said all this, as much as I didn’t like the decision at all, I won’t ignore Skinner just because I didn’t like the way the Oilers managed their draft.  The fact of the matter is that Skinner got red hot for the Hurricanes in the playoffs last spring, and he has all the tools to become a starter in the NHL.  However, you can say that about a ton of 18 year old goaltenders with the right size.  Intriguing, but it remains to be seen what he does with all his talent.

 

Filip Berglund  Skelleftea  SHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 209  Shot: R  Age: 20

Acquired: 3rd round, 91st overall, 2016 draft

This kid has me personally really intrigued.  He was originally set back with a knee injury in his draft year (2015), hence not being taken until the 2016 draft.  Seems to get pretty positive reviews at both ends of the ice.  His skating isn’t poor at all, but what I will say is that if he can make a subtle improvement with it that it’ll go a very long way.  Some really like the skill he will flash on occasion.  A long shot, no doubt, but it feels like they might have a diamond in the rough here.

 

Nick Ellis  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 180  Glove: L  Age: 23

Acquired: Free Agent, Signed April 7th, 2016

Ellis had a Sv% in the AHL last season that was 10 percentage points higher than Laurent Brossoit’s.  The size is a concern though, as he is very small by today’s goaltending standards.  He plays a very composed style, similar to Cam Talbot.  At his size I fear he’ll have to go above and beyond proving himself to earn a shot with the Oilers, but so far he’s off to a good start.  It’s highly unlikely, but possible with a great camp that he could steal the backup spot away from Brossoit.

 

Ziyat Paigin  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’6  Wt: 209  Shot: L  Age: 22

Acquired: 7th Round, 209th Overall, 2015 Draft

Paigin is perhaps the biggest wildcard of all the Oilers prospects.  The kids biggest attribute is his P.K. Subban like bomb from the point.  I’m not saying he can get it off like Subban can at this point, but the potential is there to be that kind of weapon.  The rest of the game however is a work in progress.  For a seventh round pick, the fact that he’s even in the conversation is a win for the Oilers.  You don’t see anyone talking about Vincent Desharnais.  But Paigin does have the tools to play in the league, maybe even be a top four guy.  But it remains to be seen if he has the toolbox to go with the tools.

 

10. Kirill Maksimov  Niagara  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 192  Shot: R  Age: 18

Acquired: 5th Round, 146th Overall, 2017 Draft

How could I possibly have Maksimov ahead of Skinner and Samorukov with Maksimov going 68 and 62 picks ahead of those guys?  You have to remember that the draft is like buying stock.  You want the best value, especially after you move out of the first round.  I like Skinner, but I’m higher on Maksimov.  I could go on and on about Maksimov’s potential.  But rather than have me tell you, let’s see what some of the top independent OHL scouts have to say:

I don’t like to base a prospect comparison on nationality like so many do, but as an Oilers fan, it is really difficult to read up on Maksimov and not think he’s another Anton Slepyshev.  I really believe that Maksimov was just in a poor situation early last season and once he went to Niagara we saw the real him and will continue to see that this season.

 

9. Joe Gambardella  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 200  Shot: L

Acquired: Signed, March 28th, 2017

With what I’ve seen of the kid so far (it’s limited), the Oilers got someone who’ll play.  Speed, good hands, and plays with a lot of enthusiasm.  Only 5’10, but 200 pounds, so size won’t be an issue.  He’s listed as a centre, but I personally see him fitting better on the wing.  If he can play the middle, awesome!  That would be a huge bonus and something this team really needs in the system.  But to me he looks like a winger.  Really like what I see though and believe he can be a top nine guy.

 

8. Ryan Mantha  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 225  Shot: R  Age: 21

Acquired: Free Agent, Signed March 1st, 2017

The more I look into Mantha, the more intrigued I get as an Oilers fan.  It’s tough to get real pumped up about a kid looking so good as an overager in junior.  Bob Stauffer seems to have been told something good about Mantha, as he’s been hinting at Mantha being a steal for the Oilers for the last few weeks.  The size is obviously there.  He’s got a real heavy shot with a cautious back swing which allows him to get it away quicker, and a little more accurate too.  And he’s a real strong skater for a kid his size.  I wonder about the toughness.  Not saying he’s not tough, but when you break out as an overager and the team which drafted you (104th overall…not that low for an unsigned kid), it just makes me wonder and could be something to watch for as he begins his pro career.

 

7. Ostap Safin  St. John  QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’4  Wt:  Shot: L  Age: 18

Acquired: 4th Round, 115th Overall, 2017 Draft

This will be controversial, but this list is from my perspective.  If you have checked out any of my three prospect rankings I put out last spring, you’d know that I had Safin in my top 50 the whole way through.  This kids upside is ridiculous.  You can see the size he has, he has good wheels for that size, great hands, and when he’s on he loves to put guys on their ass.  But that’s when he’s on.  It’s the motor that is in question with Safin.  So he’s a classic boom or bust prospect, I just can’t see there being any middle ground here.  He’ll either be Brad Isbister, or Todd Bertuzzi.  He might be slightly less likely to make it then some of the kids lower on the list, but the upside here is just too difficult to ignore.

 

6. Tyler Benson  Vancouver  WHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 190  Shot: L  Age: 19

Acquired: 2nd Round, 32nd Overall, 2016 Draft

This is a BIG season for Benson.  I talked about Safin being boom or bust.  I don’t see Benson being the same way at all, but this season sure could be that way for him.  IF he can stay healthy, he’s likely to be dealt to a WHL contender (maybe Regina, who host the Memorial Cup this season), he’ll get a great look for the World Junior team, and put himself right back in the conversation as a top Oilers prospect and MAYBE even get into consideration to be a replacement for Patty Maroon next season should they lose him to free agency.  However…he’s had big injury set backs the last two seasons, and he isn’t playing this weekend, they’re only “hopeful” he’ll play in the regular season opener for the Giants, it’s all getting very discouraging.  If he has another year like the last two, then I’m going to guess the organization will lose a lot of faith in Benson.

 

5. Dylan Wells  Peterborough  OHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 182  Glove: L  Age: 19

Acquired: 5th Round, 123rd Overall, 2016 Draft

If Wells had been selected with a top 60 pick in 2016, fans and media would be heaping a lot more praise on the Oilers for this pick.  I listen to Sportsnet 960 in Calgary a lot, and the Flames fans and media are over the moon about Tyler Parsons, as they should be.  But Wells is a little bigger, a little younger, and was a little better than Parsons last season.  It’s such a long road ahead for Wells, as goaltenders take a long time to develop.  But so far, this pick has been outstanding.  He’ll be in the mix for the World Junior team this year, and with Carter Hart’s poor performance at the Showcase tournament this summer it may have opened the door a bit for the brass to look at other options in goal, despite the fact that Hart was the starter last year.  If that’s the case, Wells could get his shot.  Of course Canada now has about four or five great options after having nobody for so many years.

 

4. Ethan Bear  Seattle  WHL

Pos: D  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 205  Shot: R  Age: 20

Acquired: 5th Round, 124th Overall, 2015 Draft

He falls a spot in my rankings, but I’m certain anyone reading this knows why that is.  The big debate, as was last spring with my rankings, is having Bear as the second ranked defenceman and not first.  It’s the skating.  He had amazing numbers in the WHL, no doubt.  Defenceman of the year last season, helped lead the T-Birds to the WHL crown, but the NHL just keeps getting faster and faster.  You just can’t lack speed in this league anymore.  Look at Jagr.  Terrific numbers the last two seasons, yet teams are scared off because away from the puck he’s virtually useless now.  A massive if, but IF Bear can gain an extra step or two, he’s going to be a top four kid in the league, guaranteed.  Because he’s got everything else in his game.  IQ, vision, shot, toughness, good in his own zone, walks the line very well, he’s a stud.  He just needs to improve that skating, and it’s too big of an “if” to put him any higher than this.

 

3. Caleb Jones  Portland  WHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 190  Shot: L  Age: 20

Acquired: 4th Round, 117th Overall, 2015 Draft

I’m probably the only guy in Alberta who has Jones ahead of Bear.  I get it, Bear was named defenceman of the year in the same league.  But as a pro, while Bear needs to improve his skating to make the jump someday, Jones skating is already great.  You have to consider too that Bear was playing on the much better team.  Portland is no joke, but Seattle of course won the league title.  Had they switched spots, it’s like Jones who is winning the defenceman of the year award.  In no way looking to piss on Ethan Bear as a prospect by the way, just comparing the two.  Anyway, Jones has the smarts, skating, and creativity in my opinion to play in the show, and perhaps very soon.  I believe he’ll get some games in this season, and could be competing for a spot this time next year.

 

2. Kailer Yamamoto  Spokane  WHL

Pos: RW  Ht:  Wt:  Shot: R  Age: 19

Acquired: 1st Round, 22nd Overall, 2017 Draft

You’re hearing and reading non stop about how he’s “another Johnny Gaudreau”.  Flattering, but he doesn’t play like Gaudreau.  He’s much more of a Marty St.Louis type.  If you remember, St.Louis was equally a great sniper and playmaker.  St.Louis had no issue at all getting his nose dirty and going to the tough area’s on the ice.  And he played with a chip on his shoulder.  That’s a lot like Yamamoto.  This kid is driven and plays with a lot of passion.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it is going to be a hardcore love affair between Yamamoto and this fan base.  He seems like the kind of kid who’ll thrive in this environment, and this fan base adores players of his ilk (passion and personality).  He’ll start next season with the team, guaranteed.

 

1. Jesse Puljujarvi  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3.5  Wt: 208  Shot: R  Age: 19

Acquired: 1st Round, 4th Overall, 2016 Draft

I laugh at how many people are sleeping on Puljujarvi.  We DO remember he went 4th overall, right?  And that he only got to the fourth pick because of circumstances of the Blue Jackets being desperate for a centre, right?  And that he looked great once sent down to Bakersfield, right?  And that the last two high profile teens to be sent down mid season like he was were Ryan Smyth and Leon Draisaitl, right?  The people who are bailing on this kid already are just humiliating.  There is a chance he starts the season in Bakersfield, but I’m guessing he’ll make the club.  Too big, too skilled, deceptively fast, he’s got a chance to be dominant, and I’ll be shocked if he’s anything less than a regular 50 point, top six type of guy.

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Edmonton Oilers Post Season Top 10 Prospects

I was listening to Oilers Now yesterday.  Full disclosure, I don’t normally listen when Bob doesn’t host, but I wanted to hear some of the fan feedback after the game seven loss.  No doubt it hurts, but that was likely as easy of a game seven loss as a franchise will ever suffer!  I was expecting fans to be disappointed, but all pretty pumped.  NOPE!  Callers to radio shows are always going to be a bit off.  But every caller?!  It really makes me question if fans aren’t so scared from what’s gone on here the last decade that they can’t comprehend what this team is on the verge of becoming.

 

I’m certain most of you reading this understand it though.  And it’s not to be a fan boy about it, and it’s not to discount that there is still work to be done.  But this team is going to be picked to win the Cup starting this fall.  Not by all, but by some, and it’s not going to be any kind of hot take.  They’re now a contender, and they’re setup to last a long time.

 

Obviously I’m hyped about what’s on the roster and the fact that this team is loaded with kids 24 and under, a lot of whom aren’t just on the team, but are leading this team.  And with the team taking that massive turn we had all been eagerly awaiting since the 2010 draft, what has flown under the radar is how well this team is all of a sudden drafting and developing.  Obviously we know why this has flown under the radar, but unfortunately it is now the offseason and we need to start looking to the future.

 

Being a big draft guy, I’d like to focus for a minute on the 22nd pick.  The way I’m looking at it, you either go centre or defence there.  Even if the Oilers don’t manage to land Spencer Foo in free agency, you can always put a centre on the wing.  I’m getting to the point now where, at least for me, where the winger has to knock me on my ass with his skill set to like him over a centre.  Now, who am I right?  But I’m certain there are NHL GM’s who see this the same way.

 

The kid I’ve loved for months now is Owen Sound centre Nick Suzuki.  In February that looked possible at 22.  Now, not a chance if you ask me as he has rocketed up a lot of lists.  In my latest mock draft I had London Knights centre Robert Thomas.  5’11, 185 pounds, right handed shot, great wheels, already real good in the dot and a point per game player this season.  Another one I really like is Jaret Anderson-Dolan out of Spokane.  He’d be a BIT of a reach at 22 the way most lists currently look, but the same size as Thomas with better point totals and just as good of speed.  Was held off the board at the U18’s for Canada, but was named captain of the team which is always a positive.

 

If you’re thinking a blueliner is the way to go, Henri Jokiharju is the kid I like.  6’0, 176 pounds with a right handed shot.  He’s a great skater, needs work in his own zone but what I really like about the kid is he’s always playing on his toes and does not lack aggression both in terms of taking chances and willingness to battle.  The one thing about taking a D-man in the draft, even though the Oil are pretty stocked with them right now, is that they always have great trade value.  Trades are nearly impossible to make these days, but defencemen are at an all time high as the Hall/Larsson swap proved, so you really can’t go wrong taking a defencemen.  Especially a right handed shooting puck mover.

 

But enough draft talk for now, onto the top 10.

 

Before I get started on the list, let’s make one thing very clear.  While I go glass half full with all these kids, it’s all hypothetical.  I’d say if four of these guys become SOMETHING, then it’s a massive win.  Also should mention, the ages are as of September 1st, 2017, so some guys aren’t as old currently as they’re listed (i.e. Ethan Bear).  I also put their team as who they played for the majority of this season rather than who they’ll be with to start 17-18.  Hopefully that puts to rest any misunderstandings of how I did this.

 

Honourable mentions:

 

Ryan Mantha  Niagara  OHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 225  Shot: R  Age: 21

Acquired: Free Agent, Signed March 1st, 2017

One of the latest additions to the Oilers stable.  Mantha was originally drafted by the Rangers in the 4th round of the 2014 draft, but they chose not to sign him.  I have a tough time at this point ranking him.  That size and those numbers this season say he’s a hell of a prospect, but he was an overager this season for Niagara.  Intriguing package, but the jury will still be very much out on him for now.  I’m guessing he’ll start the season in Bakersfield, likely part of the agreement when he chose the Oilers.

 

Filip Berglund  Skelleftea  SHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 209  Shot: R  Age: 20

Acquired: 3rd round, 91st overall, 2016 draft

This kid has me personally really intrigued.  He was originally set back with a knee injury in his draft year, hence not being taken until last June.  Seems to get pretty positive reviews at both ends of the ice.  His skating isn’t poor at all, but what I will say is that if he can make a subtle improvement with it that it’ll go a very long way.  Some really like the skill he will flash on occasion.  A long shot, no doubt, but it feels like they might have a diamond in the rough here.

 

William Lagesson  UMass-Amherst  NCAA

Pos: D  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 198  Shot: L  Age: 21

Acquired: 4th Round, 91st Overall, 2014 Draft

When I’ve seen and when I read up on Lagesson, everything points towards a Darius Kasparaitis type.  Bigger offensive numbers would without a doubt be nice to see, but he skates real well, and he’s simply miserable to play against.  As a prospect he reminds me a lot of Brandon Davidson, not at all in style of play, but in the sense that every time I watched and read something on Davidson, I liked it.  Same deal with Lagesson.  I love that he’s going back to Sweden next season, I believe it’ll really help his development.

 

Bogdan Yakimov  Nizhnekamsk  KHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 232  Shot: L  Age: 22

Acquired: 3rd Round, 83rd Overall, 2013 Draft

Full disclosure, I’m not sure how it works with his rights.  I don’t see why he wouldn’t be under team control next season, but he is listed as an RFA this summer so I’d assume he needs qualifying?  For now, I’m listing him here.  He’s still got a very intriguing skill set.  I would never get overly excited about what he can bring to the table should he come back over, but I do believe he’s capable of being a Brian Boyle type with the upside to be more Michal Handzus…which of course is code for “a 3rd or 4th line centre”.  I’m definitely not holding my breathe on him, but until they officially don’t own his rights I believe he is still worth mentioning.

 

10. Nick Ellis  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 180  Glove: L  Age: 23

Acquired: Free Agent, Signed April 7th, 2016

Ellis had a Sv% in the AHL this season that was 10 percentage points higher than Laurent Brossoit’s.  The size is a concern though, as he is very small by today’s goaltending standards.  He plays a very composed style, very similar to Cam Talbot.  At his size I fear he’ll have to go above and beyond proving himself to earn a shot with the Oilers, but so far he’s off to a good start.

 

9. John Marino  Harvard  NCAA

Pos: D  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 190  Shot: R  Age: 20

Acquired: 6th Round, 154th Overall, 2015 Draft

In the 6th round of the draft, I feel like you have to stick to a few rules.  If it’s me, I’m looking for kids who have decent size, skates real well, and a high IQ.  Marino checks all those boxes.  Obviously he’ll go back to Harvard for at least another season in 2018, and likely 2019 as well, so we’re talking about a kid who is still a long ways away.  But he took a pretty big step in his development in his freshman season at Harvard and should see an increased role next season, although he does have Calgary 2016 3rd rounder Adam Fox to contend with.

 

8. Markus Niemelainen  Saginaw  OHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 200  Shot: L  Age: 19

Acquired: 3rd Round, 63rd Overall, 2016 Draft

I really didn’t understand this pick.  It was great value, as most had Niemelainen as a late first/early second round pick.  But he was just more of what the Oilers had.  Adam Fox (getting mentioned twice in an Oilers piece, impressive) was taken two picks later by the Flames, and I personally felt Fox was a lot better fit for the Oilers in the organization.  Of course this is where I explain that as years have gone on I’ve become much more of a pick for need guy than a BPA guy because of the difficulty making trades has become.  Having said all this, he is similar to Adam Larsson in that he will not wow you in anyway, but can completely shut down the other teams top line.  He’ll be around 215-220 once he fills out, has great mobility for his size, and despite low offensive numbers he moves the puck very well.  Like William Lagesson, I’m a big fan of the fact that he’s headed back to Finland to play pro next season.  Should help his development a lot.

 

7. Ziyat Paigin  Kazan Ak-Bars  KHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’6  Wt: 209  Shot: L  Age: 22

Acquired: 7th Round, 209th Overall, 2015 Draft

Man, it’s still ridiculously early, but the hope is very much alive that Peter Chiarelli knocked it out of the park with the D-men he selected post McDavid in the 2015 draft.  Paigin’s calling card is his bomb from the point.  But he has a long way to go in his development.  He has the skill set you want (size, mobility, willingness to engage physically), but he still needs a season in Bakersfield.  I can’t find and didn’t hear anything about how he played in his five games after coming over, although I wouldn’t put much stock into those games having just come over from Russia to what is a vastly different league and style.

 

6. Tyler Benson  Vancouver  WHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 190  Shot: L  Age: 19

Acquired: 2nd Round, 32nd Overall, 2016 Draft

Two brutal seasons from an injury standpoint.  The other scary thing about Benson is he isn’t the most fleet of foot player, definitely needs to work on his first step.  Having said this, there are too many positives in his game to quit on him as a prospect.  First and foremost, look at what he was doing while healthy this season (42 points in 33 games).  I’d be lying my ass off if I said the groin/pubic bone injury reoccurrence didn’t worry me.  Absolutely does.  But, should he play 60-70 games next season, he likely plays in the WJC, and he’ll likely dealt to a contender before January 10th.  At this point I’m definitely not writing him off, and still think there is a good chance he’s a steal.  It’s just going to take a bit longer than some thought.

 

5. Dylan Wells  Peterborough  OHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 182  Glove: L  Age: 19

Acquired: 5th Round, 123rd Overall, 2016 Draft

I first got hyped about Wells right after the Oilers drafted him last June.  A few OHL scouts I follow on Twitter were raving about the pick moments after the pick was made, as they both firmly believed that Wells had all the tools to be a steal, he just hadn’t put it together to that point.  Fast forward 10 months, and he’s really started to put it together.  Wells has had a great season, but his play went to another level around midseason, and continued to be incredible during the Petes playoff run. Through his first 11 playoff games, Wells had a Sv% of .941.  That did dip thanks to Peterborough getting destroyed in their final playoff game, but it was still a 2.51 G.A.A. and a .930 Sv%.  Size wise he isn’t much bigger than Nick Ellis, but with Wells only being 19 he is more likely to pack on the 20-30 pounds both netminders need to play in the league.  Goaltenders are a crap shoot, but I will say that had the Oilers taken Wells with a late 1st or early 2nd round pick, we’d all be raving about Wells right now.  It’s still so very early in his development.  BUT…so far, the pick has been a home run.

 

4. Griffin Reinhart  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 208  Shot: L  Age: 23

Acquired: Trade, June 24th, 2015

As bitter as you are about this trade…I’m a whole lot more bitter about it than you are!  I immediately hated the deal, and could not be talked out of it no matter how hard some of my buddies tried.  Had they not done it and simply selected who they liked (sounds like Joel Eriksson Ek would have gone 16th, Brandon Carlo would have gone 33rd) they’d have one of the best prospect pools in the league right now.  But, it’s done and we all need to get over.  We also all need to understand that just because that trade was awful that it doesn’t mean Reinhart can’t play in the NHL.  From all reports, he came on real strong around January in Bakersfield.  It was only one game, but in his 13 minutes of play in game six, he did look solid.  It’s the same old story with Reinhart.  If he can get a chip on his shoulder and play with an edge (and I’m not just talking about throwing hits once in a while, but learning to play on his toes), he still has a chance to become a real solid top four defenceman.  I’m hopeful he’s not about to be snagged by Vegas in the expansion draft, but I also have a feeling the reason the return was low on Brandon Davidson was because Peter Chiarelli knows that George McPhee will take one of Pouliot (likely) or Fayne, perhaps thanks to Peter greasing the wheels a bit.  There for it was viewed as not only getting Desharnais, but shedding over 5 mil off the cap for 2018.

 

3. Ethan Bear  Seattle  WHL

Pos: D  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 205  Shot: R  Age: 20

Acquired: 5th Round, 124th Overall, 2015 Draft

It’s tough with Bear, because on one hand you can’t help but get giddy about the numbers he’s put up in the WHL the last two seasons and the fact that he was named the WHL defenceman of the year.  But on the other hand, that foot speed just simply isn’t good enough right now.  It’s not an easy thing to improve, but man, if he can get it to the level he needs to, this kid is going to be a huge steal.  The fact that he’s playing in the WHL finals with what is suspected to be a broken hand really speaks to this kids character and toughness.  And he’s not just a big shot on the PP.  That PP runs through Bear just as much, if not more so (when I’ve seen them play) than it does through Matt Barzal.  I really believe the upside on this kid is that he can be a Ryan Ellis type.  But even if his skating doesn’t improve to that level, I still believe he can play in the league as a number six guy who is sheltered five on five but sees a ton of minutes on the PP and PK.

 

2. Caleb Jones  Portland  WHL

Pos: D  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 190  Shot: L  Age: 20

Acquired: 4th Round, 117th Overall, 2015 Draft

I’m not the only one noticing that he could be pushing for ice time next season am I?  I’m not saying out of camp, but I could see him start getting looks on the big club around midseason or so, and by the 2018 offseason I could see a scenario where they’re looking for a way to get Sekera’s deal off the books to not only create cap space but also fit Jones onto the big club (depending on how Nurse’s development continues to go).  62 points in 63 games for Portland this season and was used on the top D pairing for the U.S. at the WJC this year in more of a shutdown role.  He’s been a hell of a find.  Some will scream that Bear should be ahead of Jones, but with Jones there is zero concern about his skating ability.

 

1. Jesse Puljujarvi  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3.5  Wt: 208  Shot: R  Age: 19

Acquired: 1st Round, 4th Overall, 2016 Draft

I’ve heard some people get worried about Puljujarvi.  Guys, R-E-L-A-X.  He just turned 19 five days ago.  He was great in the AHL.  He has nowhere near the strength to match his body size right now, you can see it with how he skates.  He’s going to be an offensive driver.  I believe his explosiveness will improve as he gains strength, and with that big frame and big ass he will be able to dominate defenders below the hash marks much like Jagr and Hossa can (not saying he’s going to be either of those guys, just in terms of how he protects the puck).  He’s also going to live off McDavid feeds on the power play with that righty one timer he has.  The Oilers have an absolute stud here.  I could see a scenario in a few seasons where McDavid, Draisaitl and Puljujarvi are each anchoring their own line much the way Mike Sullivan used Crosby, Malkin and Kessel last season.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

What an Oppurtunity

I have to admit, I’m getting a little fatigued with the ref talk.  We all know how horribly they have screwed the Oilers in the last two games with two of the worst blown calls (everything considered) in the last 17 years (hope Sabres fans notice I didn’t say 18 years).  And while nobody wants to get over it, you have to get over it because there is still a series to win here.  There is an opening here to get to the Cup final and everyone (fans included) have to keep that in mind.

 

The team and yes, the fans, have to keep this positive.  I’m not the most positive guy, more of a realist.  But I’ve found myself saying since the end of game five “what a chance they have here”.

 

First of all, I believe the team and the fans need a way to look and get past the officiating.  That way?  Well the way I’m trying to look at it is that Dana White always says with fights in the UFC “don’t leave it in the hands of the judges”.  So many awful decisions have come from fights going to the judges score cards.  And really, that’s what happened with all these awful calls against the Oilers.  They’ve left these games in the hands of the refs.  Yes they were screwed, and if you don’t think so you’re just attempting to troll Oilers fans.  But they left it in the hands of the judges so to speak and you can’t do that.

 

The one concern going into tonight without a doubt is that the Ducks confidence couldn’t be any higher now.  You may have heard Bob Stauffer say earlier in the series, part of Ryan Getzlaf’s confidence is coming from nothing being called against him (not to whine about the officiating, but it’s just been a fact).  Well now this team has gotten away with two blatant goaltender interference calls, combined with a dramatic comeback has to have them believing nothing is going to go wrong.

 

But don’t sleep on the stat Jack Michaels tossed out on Twitter after game five though:

Two of the last three years, it’s followed this exact same pattern.  Lose first two games at home, win the next three.

 

I’m sure many are expecting the Oilers to fold in this one after all that’s gone on.  I’d be shocked if the Oilers folded tonight.

 

If they were going to fold, they would have done so in game five against San Jose, they didn’t.  They would have done so down 3-0 in game three of this series, nope.  Would have done so in the third period of game four, another no.  Would have done so in game five, wrong again.  Would have done so in the first OT in game five, ONCE AGAIN they did not.  So if you’re expecting that tonight, I can’t help but think it’s your pessimistic attitude, because this team, while frustrating at times, has given none of us any reason to believe they’ll fold their hand.

 

Fold their hand…remember hearing that non stop last year?  I’d say it’s been a lesson learned.

 

One of the most resilient teams I’ve ever seen in sports was the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks.  Twice in the 2001 World Series they were an out away from grabbing that series by the throat, and twice their closer Byun-Hun Kim gave up a game tying home run and eventually the Yankees won both games in extra’s.  Similarities?  The D-Backs won the first two games.  The D-Backs were also down 3-2 with game six at home.  They dismantled the Yankees in game six.  You kept thinking as that series went on “this HAS to of killed them”, and nothing did.  The end of that series was them down 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth with Mariano Rivera on the mound, who at that time hadn’t blown a postseason save in 23 straight appearances (his career postseason E.R.A. was 0.73 entering that game).

 

Goes without saying but the Oilers have to get another two or three nothing lead.  You may emphatically say “DUH!!” , or “the Ducks will be fine just like they were the last two games”, and that could be the case.  But I’m certain at least some of those Ducks wouldn’t be fine.  I’m certain some of them would be flashing back to what’s happened in anyone of the last four seasons.  If it’s only happened once or even twice it’s probably just a coincidence.  Four straight years?  It’s a mental thing.  In 2015 there was no way they should have lost to the Blackhawks.  They were the better team in all of the first five games, and they flat out choked in games six and seven.  And I have little doubt that’s what went on last year against Nashville.  So it’s vital the Oilers get them on the ropes again.

 

That D-Backs World Series win is one of the best sports stories I’ve ever seen play out in my life, and here are the 2017 Oilers with a chance to do the same.  Absolutely every reason to fold up shop and call it a year.  Bet they don’t.  And if the Ducks don’t finish them tonight, they’ll be questioning themselves.  Not just from what’s happened in the past, but they’ll be asking themselves “why won’t this team just die?”  After outplaying the Oilers for the majority of the series, keeping McDavid in check for the most part, by my count five what would be at best questionable goals in the series, and two what should have been absolute back breaking/crushing and crucial goals which should have been called back and weren’t…that momentum all goes the other way with an Oilers win tonight.

 

Think about how sweet winning this series would now be.  Think about what that would mean for this team once they become serious Cup contenders and what a brick jaw they’d collectively have thanks to having gone through this.  Hell, think about what it’d do for the team moving forward in THESE playoffs!

 

What a story this team has a chance to write.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

That was Quite Impressive

Is the Ottawa/Boston series THAT boring, are does it just feel that way in comparison to the Washington/Toronto and Edmonton/San Jose series?  Those latter two are (or were in one case, which of course I’m getting to) pretty clearly the best two series of the opening round.  Then I watch Ottawa/Boston and I just couldn’t care less.  Is it just me?  It’s not only boring hockey, but two teams that just feel about 10,000 miles away from the Cup and neither have a mode of transportation to get there.  I shouldn’t want any series to end, but yeah, it wouldn’t break my heart if we didn’t get a seventh game there.  The Caps and Leafs….give me seven, but I’ll talk about that beauty another day.

 

So I said Oilers in seven prior to the series.  Couture and Thornton came in hurt, Sharks even before those injuries were badly stumbling (I believe it was the night prior to the Couture injury they were blown out by the Stars), and it felt like the Oilers were the much better team coming in, however the Sharks had such a massive experience advantage that you knew it’d be a long series.  So while I can say “I called it”, I really only called the end result.  That series was NOTHING as to what I expected.

 

I figured the Oilers would pump the Sharks in game one.  The young Oilers are so fired up that they’ll look to win the series in one game and the veteran Sharks will somewhat let them and comeback to punk them in game two.  That I guess was the case for the first period, and then as you know the Sharks toyed with the Oilers the rest of the game.

 

Ok, this isn’t good.

 

The Oilers quite literally looked terrified as the game got tight in game one, so if that’s the case then how are they going to play now with even more pressure on to win game two.  Naturally, they dominated….

 

They win game three 1-0.  SERIOUSLY?!  Of the two teams, they’re winning a road game 1-0?!  And of the two teams, the Sharks are the team winning game four 7-0?!

 

In game five a team has a 3-1 lead only to let it slip away and lose in OT.  Ok, well that must have been the young Oilers.  Game six, a team pushes hard early on which leads to a 2-0 lead, there is a hard push the remainder of the game by the team trailing in the series but it comes up short.  This shit is ass backwards!!

 

And to put up with the way that series was officiated was frankly incredible.  You and me probably could have handled it better, but I thought the Oilers were awesome outside of the frustration in game four.  I know I bitch and moan about the officials a ton, but I rarely ever feel like they cost teams games, and it’s not just in the Oilers favour I complain.  It’s the consistency that rattles me.  Having said all this, in the last two games, the Sharks were given gifts both on what wasn’t called against them, but what got called on the Oilers.  I personally counted 7-1 (being generous on calling the Maroon penalty, I’ve never understood why a goaltender has a hall pass while outside his crease), yet the PP’s were 2-1 I think?  I probably have seen it that blatant before, but I don’t recall seeing it that blatant of an advantage for the “veteran team”.  Dave Randorf hinted at it a lot during the game five broadcast.  Nick Kypreos finally brought it to light in the first intermission last night.  It was horrendous, and the Oilers fought through it.  I said to my buddies I was watching with, it was fitting that the series ended with McDavid getting very obviously hauled down, with the puck, no call was coming yet again….and he still scored.

 

Now I’m not about to get all “fan boy” about this (although I’m sure a lot of you believe I had my Oilers goggles on big time with the ref rant…fair enough).  The Ducks were my pick to win the Cup and I’m definitely sticking to that.  Randy Carlyle is going to be comfortable with any of his top three centres on the ice against McDavid.  I know analytics guys don’t think faceoffs are overly important, but you have the number one team in the league in the dot against the 30th team in the league in the dot.  The Ducks are also (at least publicly) saying that they expect Cam Fowler and Sami Vantanen to both be back this series, Hampus Lindholm left game four against the Flames but he is supposed to be ready for game one.  So to sum that up, their blueline which is likely the deepest in the league is now going to have all hands on deck.  The one advantage it looked like the Oilers would have most of the season over the Ducks was in goal.  Well in three of the four games John Gibson was outstanding, and when called upon, so was Jonathan Bernier.

 

Having said all of that, the Oilers definitely can win this series.  I think it’s going six or seven either way, and the Oilers have proven they can win the tight games, they can win without McDavid being a force, they look completely comfortable with playoff hockey.  Remember, this lineup has nine kids most nights (most of whom make up their core) who are 24 or younger.  This team apparently won this last series with a pretty nasty flu bug going around their room.  Could have contributed to McDavid’s struggles, we know contributed to Draisaitl’s struggles early in the series, knocked out Klefbom for a lot of game six, and who knows who else it hit.  We have yet to see this Oilers team best in these playoffs.  So while I believe the smart money is on the Ducks, I definitely don’t believe it’s anything lopsided.

 

But even if they got swept by the Ducks, would anyone be overly pissed?!  Forget what anyone else thought, most of us Oilers fans didn’t see this team making the playoffs this season let alone knocking off the defending Western Conference champs.  It is all gravy from here.  It’s next season that this team will be one of the favourites to win the Cup.  For now they’re playing with house money!

 

Add to this, rumours suggest we are getting an answer as to where Spencer Foo will be signing, perhaps as soon as this is posted, and not only would he be a great addition to the Oilers, but most seem to feel the Oilers are the favourites to land him.  I watched this kid play a few times in Bonnyville, and his wheels alone are going to make him a top nine guy in the league.  Intelligent, skilled, plays with some balls, Oilers fans would really like him.

 

Last year I wrote this piece: http://soupsonhockey.com/2016/02/25/darkest-before-dawn/

 

Can you believe that was just 14 months ago?  This time last year, fans around the league were petrified the Oilers were about to win another 1st overall pick.  Now, this team is in the second round of the playoffs with a relatively legitimate shot to win the Cup (though again, I don’t believe they’ll get past the Ducks, and if they get past the Ducks, the Preds are a brutal matchup, and then if they actually got to the final, they’ll likely see the Pens who are…well…the Pens).  Incredible turnaround, which I know isn’t lost on any of you.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

They Got Lucky, Just Like All Other Good Teams

It was a nice scene last night at Rogers Place.  It was long overdue for Oilers fans to see their team finally back in the playoffs.  I know I went over it all just yesterday, but from June 19th, 2006 on, this organization, city, and region has taken way more shit than anyone ever deserved.  A little anti-climatic as most of the players and fans focus is on the race inside the Pacific division and much bigger games upcoming both tomorrow night and Saturday, but it was still a great moment and nice to see the monkey finally off the organizations back.

 

But of course in today’s day and age where bitterness and fake toughness is king, there was a complete hack media member who took to Twitter last night in a desperate attempt to troll Oilers fans.

 

I’m not going to put up the tweet, I’m not going to mention his name even though I’m sure you know who it is, but also this is not near as much about the tweet as it is with a perception in general.  Had it not been for Darcy McLeod and another buddy of mine responding to it, I wouldn’t have seen it.  I don’t follow hacks on twitter, and trust me this has been my opinion of this particular guy LONG before last night.  I don’t waste my time with people who I know have pretty much zero respect from their peers and are looked at as being purely schtick.  I can promise you that you’ll get far better hockey insight reading anything I’ve wrote than the garbage he comes up with, and I’m far from an egotistical guy.  But a lot of Oilers fans were pretty pissed off about the tweet, so I’m going to poke an extremely large hole in not only that tweet, but the opinion which has reigned around the NHL since April 18th, 2015.

 

I will never be the guy who will say the Oilers weren’t lucky to win the Connor McDavid lottery.  But a ton of people outside of Edmonton can’t wait to tell Oilers fans that.  Anytime this squad is going to win anything, we’re going to see and hear people who are bitter/butt hurt/hate their lives/hate themselves/whatever have you, who will go to this.  So allow me to list off other teams who “got lucky”.

 

I’ll start with the one I put on Twitter last night to the hack Devils fan who inspired this piece.  The Devils won three Stanley Cups in large part due to having Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer.  I think it’s safe to say that without both those guys, the Devils wouldn’t have won a Cup.  The Devils were literally given Scott Stevens as compensation for the Blues signing Brendan Shanahan away in 1991.  The Devils “lucked” into getting Scott Niedermayer thanks to the Leafs trading them their 1991 1st round pick in 1989 for Tom Kurvers.  Did Lou Lamoriello know in 1989 where the Leafs would pick in 1991 when doing that trade?  Or was he lucky that in 1991 the Leafs were awful?

 

We all know how the Pens got lucky a few times, didn’t they?  Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby, you can even throw Evgeni Malkin in there.  The Pens got pretty lucky didn’t they?  Craig Patrick apparently did nothing to win those back to back Cups in 91 and 92, it was all luck.  Ray Shero did nothing to win his Cup in 09.  Sheer luck.  Take those banners down Pens fans!

 

The Chicago Blackhawks.  Three Cups in six seasons.  They won the Patrick Kane lottery, and to that point had been terrible for eight of the previous nine seasons.  Went from 5th to 1st in the lottery, and the only reason they were 5th and not 6th, was because the Calgary Flames discovered they had clinched the 8th seed in the West during the 2nd intermission of their 81st game against the Oilers.  The Oilers came back to win the game 3-2 to bump the Hawks down a spot in the standings.  Not only that, they got Jonathan Toews the year before.  Was it not lucky the Pens chose to take Jordan Staal instead of Toews?  Toews was ranked ahead of Staal for most of that season and easily could have been the 2nd overall pick.  Wow, that whole Hawks mini dynasty thing really was just all luck I guess.

 

No fan base loves to play “the Oilers just got lucky” card more than Calgary Flames fans, a lot of whom have this belief that they’ve simply worked real hard and have earned everything they’ve got in recent years unlike those insanely lucky Oilers…

 

In 2011 nobody in Calgary knew who the hell the Flames took with their 4th round pick.  Johnny Gaudreau being a college kid could have very little to do with the Flames organization during his time at Boston College.  He played exactly zero games in the AHL.  The Flames didn’t get “lucky” that he turned into the player he has?  That was just all amazing drafting and developing by the Flames hey?  John Weisbrod and Jay Feaster knew that Gaudreau would become a 1st line player in the NHL and also knew that they could wait until exactly the 104th pick in the 2011 draft to take this 1st line player did they?  No luck involved?  What about the Hurricanes passing on Sean Monahan for Elias Linholm?  Not lucky?  All a genius plan devised behind the scenes?  They let Mark Giordano go to Russia, yet there was no luck involved in getting him back and then developing into a top pairing defenceman?  It’s weird, teams usually don’t lose guys who they know are going to be top pairing defencemen to the KHL.

 

Speaking of late round gems, how about the New England Patriots?  They got a QB in the 6th round once upon a time, 199th overall in the 2000 NFL draft.  It wasn’t lucky that they picked him?  They knew he was going to be the greatest QB of all time did they?  No luck involved?

 

The Chicago Bulls in 1984 had the 3rd pick in the NBA draft.  Did Rod Thorne and Bulls management at the time know something the rest of the NBA didn’t and that they were about to draft the greatest basketball player of all time?  They didn’t?  So we can just ignore six titles in eight years because the Bulls got lucky to get Michael Jordan so they actually didn’t win anything.  I got that right don’t I?  Seems to fit that same logic.

 

It might be the worst argument going in sports right now that the Oilers are where they are now because of “luck”.  Two of the four 1st overall picks have been moved out.  One of the others, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, has yet to live up to his potential.  This team isn’t in the playoffs this year without Cam Talbot, Andrej Sekera, Patrick Maroon, Adam Larsson, Kris Russell, go down the list of all the moves Peter Chiarelli has made.  No doubt, McDavid is the biggest reason they’re in this position and will soon be a contender, but not a chance this team is anywhere near this position without a lot of the tremendous moves that Chiarelli has made.

 

And Bob Nicholson brought in Chiarelli.  And Kevin Lowe is the reason Daryl Katz knew Nicholson and then hired Nicholson.  So by the same logic as the “the Oilers just got lucky” people, I’m going to say that Lowe is to thank for all this.  Because he made them awful for all those seasons, he was the reason Katz brought in Nicholson, who brought in Chiarelli, who brought in McLellan, etc, etc.  So Lowe made it all happen, isn’t that right “the Oilers just got lucky” people?!

 

The truth in all this is you have a lot of bitter people about this because they don’t like change and they don’t like being wrong.  The Oilers were the whipping boy for most of these people, and now they had their whipping boy taken away.  This is a psychological habit for a lot of people.  When they see someone looking to better themselves or go further than others believe they could or should, they’ll look to hold those people back.  They’ll mock and trash those people because consciously or subconsciously they don’t like the change and they don’t like seeing people improving themselves.  They could point at the Oilers and laugh, and proudly say “see, told you there rebuild wouldn’t work”.  They took pleasure in it not working, and in large part that was thanks to the Oilers who marketed their rebuild like no other in league history to that point and had a lot of arrogance about how it wouldn’t fail.

 

But the actual truth is…as much as “the Oilers just got lucky” people don’t like to hear it…is that it has worked.  It took a lot longer than it should have, but in 2010 the cry not just around Edmonton but around the league was that bottoming out was the way to go because you couldn’t get players like Crosby, Toews, Stamkos or Tavares unless you went that route.  Well the Oilers were down there in 2015, just as everyone in 2010 said they needed to be to get that kind of player.  And let’s not forget, they were the one team in 2015 that wasn’t openly tanking to move up in that draft.  The Sabres, Coyotes and Leafs weren’t the least bit shy about getting as many ping pong balls as they could.  While they were doing that, the Oilers were, much to my dismay, helping the Flames put a nail in the coffin of the LA Kings.

 

Could you not argue that the Oilers were “unlucky” in 2010, 2011 and 2012 that the clear cut 1st overall picks were two wingers and an undersized centre?  By no means am I saying management wasn’t a complete joke, the amateur scouting wasn’t a complete joke, but had those three 1st overall picks been Ekblad, McDavid and Matthews they sure as hell wouldn’t have taken so long to get their rebuild off the ground.

 

Give me ANY TEAM IN PRO SPORTS who have had success, and I can point to a very fortunate bounce that they got to get them to that point.  Get the fuck over it ladies and gentlemen.  The Oilers are good.  They got extremely lucky to win the pick that netted them Connor McDavid, just like any team with any kind of success got extremely lucky somewhere along the line.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Time for Reflection

I don’t know if there is a more nostalgic person than me.  I’m just a complete sucker for pretty much anything in the past.  And since my mom joined Facebook it has been easy for me to figure out where I get this from.  It’s a trait that can be annoying to some I’m sure.  I’m constantly looking back on what’s been done and how I miss seemingly everything that’s happened.  It’s made worse by how good my memory is.  But for pieces like this, it’s pretty useful, and with the Oilers on the brink of officially qualifying for the 2017 postseason I believe it’s the perfect time to reflect on some things.

 

June 19th, 2006.  We all know what that date represents for the Oilers.  That ended up being one SHITTY night.  Since that night, the Oilers fan base has been laying on their backs, spread eagle, and having fans from the other 29 teams in the NHL take turns punting them in the balls with steel toed boots on.

 

How many false starts did we see in the last 11 seasons?  In April of 2008 if you told an Oilers fan that Tom Gilbert would be basically shit the rest of his career we would have laughed you out of the room.  Not even hesitated.  I met up with a friend at a Jays game in early April 2008 and at the time this friend was VERY close to the team.  And I recall us talking about what Gilbert’s contract would be (as he was an RFA that summer) and he said “I don’t know, but they better get that kid locked up…he’s DAMN GOOD”.  He was the guy they were going to build around on the blueline.  6’3, terrific skater, RH shot, already proving he could log big minutes, 13 goals and 33 points while playing in a shutdown role for the second half of that season, and only 25 years old.  How could he miss?

 

Another D-man I always freak over is Ryan Whitney.  And for all the disgusting decisions Oilers management made over the years, you don’t get to be quite as bad as they were without some horrendous luck too.  Whitney (and I apologize if you read my stuff, I bring this one up a ton) had 27 points in the first 35 games of the 2011 season.  The guy was a rock on D as well.  He had three years left at a four million a year cap hit.  He was just hitting his prime at 27 years old.  He was becoming the top pairing defenceman he was always projected to be.  And then in game 36 against Buffalo he injures his foot and never again gets close to being that player again.

 

Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano and Robert Nilsson.  This is it!  These are the kids who are going to lead us on deep playoff runs.  We just missed the playoffs in 2008, but those days are done because this trio is going to lead the Oilers to the top.  Wrong.

 

Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson (was soon to be just Paajarvi).  In the spring of 2010, sure the organization had sunk to the bottom.  But that’s what needed to happen.  Now, with these three kids leading the way, the Oilers are going straight to the top.  Hell, they even have another slick kid coming over from Sweden named Linus Omark!  Only straight up from here, right?!  Nope.

 

2013, and those three (unfortunately for Mr. Omark not four) have now been joined by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, and Justin Schultz.  Imagine that, all things were equal in bidding for Schultz and he picked EDMONTON!  Finally, the Oilers were back!  If this wasn’t confirmation, I don’t know what will be….Wrong again.

 

It really did take some VERY SPECIAL awfulness to completely fuck up things to the degree the Oilers did over all these years.  I knew it was bad in the moment, but as time goes by it just looks worse and worse and worse.

 

What can you say about the 2014 and 2015 seasons?  This fan base had already gone through what were supposed to be the worst times, and then the team got so much worse.  It was pretty literally depressing.  It had become clear that a losing culture, something the organization fearful of from the start of the “rebuild” in 2010, had become embedded in the team.

 

I don’t know how so many of you stood by the team the way you did.  I never stopped being an Oilers fan at any point.  It’s what I was born into, and I don’t quit on things, and even though I’m not much of a jersey wearer these days and do my best to look at everything objectively….I’m still an Oilers diehard, it’ll never leave me.  But having said that, I definitely got to a point where I was pretty apathetic to them.  I remember when I wrote my most read piece in November of 2014 which absolutely tore this organization to shreds for their incompetence, fans were still in their corner and coming to their defence.  The building was still packed, sure tickets were easy to come by and we were seeing empty seats on a regular basis, but for an organization which had not only been awful, but always found a way to make things even more embarrassing than they had to be like when Katz wrote an apology letter in the newspaper or Lowe told Mark Spector how he had six rings (as a player) so he knows a thing or two about winning, a lot of you STILL kept at it.

 

The nightmare really ended April 18th, 2015.  Sure, another tough season was still to come, but the reality was that it was a fresh start.  I might get more pissed now than I did that night and/or the days after when I go back and read or listen to what was being said from outside the market.  “They don’t deserve him”.  Remember that?   Edmonton and Northern Alberta in general were just supposed to be a laughing stock for fans and media, they weren’t supposed to have anything good go their way.

 

I know none of you have forgot any of this, but I feel like it’s good to reiterate it.  The Oilers got INSANELY lucky to get Connor McDavid, and any success this team now has that’ll always be the go to for any detractors.  Who cares.  Fact is that this fan base deserved something good to break their way for a change.  As big of a break as landing McDavid?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But they deserved a big break and he was it.  If you’re a fan of another team reading this right now, and you disagree with that, let me ask…did your teams superstar force a trade and piss all over your city in the process?  Did your team trade the face of their franchise the same day they were honouring and retiring the number of one of the greatest players to ever play?  Did your team have an owner who was more worried about having his buddies work for him than winning hockey games?  Did your team have a 1st overall pick in one of the worst years to have it?  Did your team have a near flawless attendance record for 10 seasons while not making the playoffs once?  Hell, they only even came close in two of those 10 seasons!

 

Oilers fans have gone through so much shit to get to this point.  The point being that they clinch a playoff spot with a win tonight.  And while I know it’s anti-climatic seeing that we all know they’re in and the real focus is on the seeding.  But take a moment to remember all of what’s gone on.  The first time they’ve had a game to clinch a playoff spot since April 13th, 2006.  Most of us didn’t know what Facebook was and thought Myspace was the next big thing.  Let all that sink in.  Enjoy it and embrace it because if you’re an Oilers fan there are very few sports fans on this planet who deserve a little success more than you.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

I Thought We Established That D-men Should Cost a Ton?

I may as well just be honest.  I’m bitter about this, so let’s just get right to it.

 

Last night the Habs got Steve Ott for a 6th round pick.  Ott is essentially done in his career, but he does have a ton of experience, gritty as hell, from every account a terrific guy in the room, he’s a 4th liner but he’s a total glue guy.  Analytics guys probably hate him, but analytics guys will argue up is down if they can find any numbers to back that argument.  Had the Edmonton Oilers pulled the trigger on something like Ott for a 6th round pick, I would have been ok with it.  I would probably prefer a guy like that heading into the playoffs then a guy like…say….David Desharnais.

 

Add to this, you have the NY Rangers who added Brendan Smith from the Red Wings.  They paid a pretty good price for a guy who has been ok, but disappointing in his NHL career.  I’d say Smith is a solid number five guy.  Brandon Davidson I would also consider a number five guy.  I don’t like Davidson AS much, but just last season in my opinion Davidson was better than Smith.  I would say a 2nd round pick for a guy who has a nice contract for next season (1.425 cap hit) and can anchor a bottom pairing is fair in what is expected to be a shitty draft.  Smith got a 2nd and a 2019 3rd.

 

So a 2nd round pick for a 6th round pick is essentially the value going out and coming in here for Peter Chiarelli.

 

I do not get this at all, and I’ve had a pretty good grasp on players trade values for the most part over the years.  I have a very good memory, I’m a hockey geek, so it’s not difficult for me to think back to past trades and past situations where certain players were dealt and what the return was.  I’ve been thinking about this one for hours, and I just can’t for the life of me figure out what Chiarelli was thinking.  How do you not get a better offer than THAT?!  And if you don’t, how do you not just say “fine, I’d rather have him for the stretch run and either try to address it in June or lose him”.

 

Sure, the Oilers have a lot of depth on the blueline (especially on the left side) throughout the organization and they were likely going to lose him in the expansion draft.  I get all of that.  But having depth on defence is vital to an organization heading into the playoffs.  And what the hell does Desharnais add to this club?  No size, he’s not all that fast for only being 5’7, he’s a lefty shot, he’s subpar in the dot, he’s nothing great in his own zone, and his offensive numbers have done nothing but decline since getting 60 points in his first full season in the league all the way down to just 10 points this season in 31 games.  I.  DO.  NOT.  GET.  THIS.  F******.  TRADE.  Anton Lander fills needs for the Oilers better than Desharnais does, and the Oilers got him in Bakersfield.

 

This is now the 3rd deal Chiarelli has done where I’m just completely dumbfounded.  I 100% back the Larsson/Hall deal, and pretty much have since day one.  But it isn’t as if I didn’t believe they were ridiculous to not get more.  The Devils seriously wouldn’t have gave them Boston’s 2nd round pick in the 2017 draft for a 2017 4th?  They seriously wouldn’t have added THAT?  Come on.  And the Reinhart trade…I’ve lost my skull about that one from the moment it went down and I’m still hot about it.  I really believe that you can blame that deal for Taylor Hall being dealt.  And I love Adam Larsson, please don’t get me wrong, but I’d rather still have Taylor Hall and have used a Joel Eriksson Ek package to land the D-man they needed.

 

Three deals where the man seemingly got completely fleeced.  It’s bizarre, because I do trust Chiarelli.  The man turned the Bruins into contenders with one top five pick (5th), and he’s done some great moves in his time with the Oilers (the Talbot trade, the Maroon trade, the Benning signing), and a lot of really solid moves.  I’ve never seen a GM seemingly THIS bipolar for lack of a better word.  It’s as though once he zero’s in on a guy he likes (I wouldn’t put Reinhart in that group, I believe that was massively influenced by the clowns who remained from the old regime) he’s willing to simply cave to a price that’s asked.

 

I can’t speak for all Oilers fans, but the ones I’ve talked with since the deal all shared the same opinion…we’d rather lose Brandon Davidson just like a UFA after the season then get Desharnais…and still lose possibly Reinhart (who as much as I’ve dogged him in this piece, is playing great in the AHL right now) in the expansion draft.

 

But let’s talk about how the man can salvage this deadline before I end this blog this morning, put a bit more of a happy face on all this.

 

I really believe Jarome Iginla is a possibility.  There are so many connections to the organization, and he is a right handed shot who can still rip it on the PP.  He also wouldn’t have to play in a top six role with this club, they could shelter him a little bit.  I’m not saying I love the idea, and now I’m getting gun shy to the idea of Chiarelli trading for any player he may like because the return here could be Puljujarvi at the rate he’s going….but I don’t think bringing in Iginla would hurt anything.

 

Sticking with the Avs, not that I have any inside knowledge of this stuff but a guy I maybe would keep an eye on is Carl Soderberg.  He’s a big cap hit at 4.75 million for another three seasons.  But he doesn’t HAVE to be that big of a cap hit.  Could Chiarelli do Soderberg with the Avs eating 750,000 for Pouliot, maybe a guy like Lander and a prospect?  Pouliot only has two years left on his deal…but I’m just thinking out loud, don’t read anything into this, it’s just a thought.

 

I do think Pouliot could play a role in a move today.  He maybe has slightly negative value at the moment, but I think he’s very moveable, especially to an analytics heavy team like Arizona or Florida.  The Panthers have a guy like Nick Bjugstad who word is they’ve soured on quite a bit, and he’s virtually the same cap hit as Pouliot.  No idea if those rumours of the Panthers souring on Bjugstad are legitimate, but if they were I’d definitely have time for the kid.  And again, I believe Pouliot could be part of the deal simply because he’s big, can skate, and has always had very good analytic numbers…not to mention good numbers period.  He was well worth the 5 year/20 million dollar contract the Oilers gave him up until this season.  A guy like Bjugstad who is still young, huge, can really skate for a guy so big, and a right handed shot on top of all that will still bring in a lot in a trade even if he isn’t living up to his contract this season.

 

Another guy that you don’t hear a word about is Bryan Little.  And hey, probably because Kevin Cheveldayoff has zero interest in moving the guy.  But he’s a UFA after next season, and this team is loaded up front.  Are they wanting to pay him 5 mil per to be on their 3rd line moving forward?  Right handed shot, great in the dot, and can produce five on five (23 ES points in 41 games this season).  He obviously wouldn’t be cheap, but I wonder if he could be had?  And if so do the Oilers have the right pieces to make it happen?  Again, just spit thinking out loud, though I’m sure someone is going to look to fight me for even bringing it up in the comments section….there’s always one knob who takes these things far too seriously.

 

Then you have the backups.  I won’t go in depth on any of them, but it sure would be nice to land someone Todd McLellan has some confidence in so he can give Cam Talbot a little more rest down the stretch.  Halak even with the Islanders eating 50% of his deal is still 2.25 million next season.  Do you really want to pay your backup goaltender that much?  Even though he’s having a tough season I’ve always like Neuvirth, but I wouldn’t give up much for him.  Maybe a 5th round pick.  Depending on his health I would be interested in Ondrej Pavelec if the Jets retained 50% of what’s left on his deal (UFA after the season).  Reto Berra is another guy who has been mentioned as a possibility.  Not sure he’s an upgrade on Brossoit, but it’s not as much about that as it is Todd McLellan having confidence in the guy.  I don’t understand why Brossoit hasn’t been given a couple more games to prove his worth, I think he’s looked solid when given the chance this season, but if they can upgrade I still think they should pull the trigger.

 

But I’m not getting over this Desharnais/Davidson swap by the end of the day.  Clearly Chiarelli, who seen Desharnais a ton while in Boston, loves the kid.  He better be right on him, because if he’s not this fan base could turn on him in a hurry and we don’t need that kind of drama back in town.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

April 1st, 2006

You might be wondering what the f*** this date has to do with anything.  You’re likely REALLY wondering what that picture is of.  I simply googled April 1st, 2006 and this is one of the first pictures which came up.  According to google, it is of the Zaney Woodruff Operation reunion.  So hey, thanks to them for there….music?  It looks like they would be a band…doesn’t it?  Anyway, it’s Saturday morning, January 14th, 2017.  Nearly 11 years after the aforementioned April 1st, 2006.  So what’s the significance of this date?  Well, I’ll tell you…first what happened to me on this date.  We’ll get to the significance shortly.

 

It was a sunny April 1st, a brisk spring day as I recall.  Actually, that’s a lie.  I have no clue as to what the weather was like that day.  But I do remember I had our baseball draft that day.  The Sweet Lou Whitaker was holding it’s 3rd annual player auction, and I had a team setup to win in 2006.  With star players such as Wily Tavares for only a dime, amazing Jays closer B.J. Ryan, and the ever flexible Ryan Freel I was sensing a title run.  I actually did make a title run that year, but at the auction that day I started a run on alcohol that was quite impressive.  If someone tosses a name out that has already been tossed or if you mention a name that has yet to be tossed and it’s not your turn to put a player up for auction, you have to do a penalty shot (I’m certain most of you know what penalty shots are, but for those completely useless dip shits out there…)  Didn’t have a list that day, so the penalty shots were a PLENTY.  Probably did 10 or so, in addition to drinking for the entire 7 hours of the auction.  You’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with April 1st being significant, but don’t worry it’s coming shortly.

 

I survived though.  Felt pretty tipsy, but was holding my own, and I had to.  The boys were in town for the draft, and it was only 6 o’clock so I had a long ways to go.

 

Next up, a fight with the girlfriend.  So THIS was fun.  She’s in Edmonton, I’m in Lloyd, she’s a huge bitch (note I didn’t use the word “was”), I’m a freaking GEM, yet I’m piled and she wants to pick a fight with me on the phone while I’m drinking at my buddies…and did I mention I was smashed?  So this went on for a good hour, but in retrospect it might have helped me power through, because I had to stop drinking….as much as I was.  What?  If she’s going to go off on me I’m a least going to put my feet up and enjoy a nice cocktail while she does her worst.  Don’t worry, I’ll get to the importance of the date in just one second.

 

Once that was done, back to drinking with my buddies who were just sitting around watching TV.  This took place at the now famous Dale Wells’ household.  You know, the producer of the smash hit movie “Fences” starring Denzel Washington?  No seriously, I was drinking in the house of a Hollywood producer.  In fact, I’ve drank MANY times in that house.  I’ve slept in that house.  I’ve been sick in that house.  I’ve had sexual relations in that house.  The phone number for the house was 780-875-3757.  It probably isn’t anymore as Dale hasn’t lived there for years now, but you should still use that phone number to see if it’s still Dale’s.  Maybe someone will answer who isn’t Dale, but they’ll say “yeah, you’re not the first person to call this number looking for Dale, but I’m sorry you have the wrong number” and just when you tell them you’re sorry for bothering them and thanks, they’ve hung up on you and then you’ll be kind of pissed at that person for a minute or so because they didn’t have to be SUCH a dick and could have at least said bye at the end.  No no no, don’t you bail on this piece now, I’m about to get to the main reason for this piece and what was the big event of April 1st, 2006.

 

But before I do that, we then went out to the bar, where a LOT more drinks were consumed.  Somehow, after this day long bender mixed with all kinds of shots, rye, rum and lots of beer, I’m STILL standing.  And I’m not just still standing, I’m not stumbling and have my wits about me pretty good for a guy who is completely done.  I remember my buddy Geno showed up that night and he was rocking sweat pants in the bar, it was the greatest thing ever!

 

That’s not what was so special about April 1st, 2006 though.  What was so special about April 1st, 2006 was that….oh yeah, I put a dip in!  And I don’t chew, but when you’re MFing obliterated and one of your buddies whips out his Copenhagen and offers me a pinch of it.  Any other time I kindly decline, so much kindness when I decline things because I’m a good guy unlike that prick who’ll hang up on you without saying bye if you got the WRONG NUMBER!!  This time I accepted the dip, ANNNNNNNND anyone who chews will know this is when ALL the liquor hit me at once, and I could not get to that bathroom quickly enough.  To say I was a mess is such a gross understatement…gross being the key word there.  I’ll leave out some gory details, but I got home that night wearing only my boxers because my clothes were…unwearable we will say.

 

Oh yeah, I almost forgot the whole reason for this blog and why April 1st, 2006 means anything of any significance whatsoever!  Damn, I basically just wasted a lot of your time!  Completely my fault.

 

It was the last time the battle of Alberta really meant something for both teams (see, I told you I would get to it).  The Flames were leading the Northwest division and if the Oilers wanted to have a shot at winning the division and getting home ice in the 1st round of the playoffs then they really needed to win this one in regulation.  Wasn’t much of a game, Langkow and Huselius  put on a show for the Flames, Horcoff got one back from Hemsky and Smyth to cut the Flames lead to 3-1, and then other than this nothing else happened:

Nice work Georges!

 

So you see now kids?  Enjoy this one tonight, because it’s been too damn long since a somewhat meaningful game to both teams took place after December 1st.  This is a pretty big game!  Not to those fans who have had competent management running their teams the last 11 seasons, but it is to us Alberta folk!

 

I hope you enjoyed my extensive breakdown of the game between the Oilers and Flames on April 1st, 2006.

 

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Barrie Picking

The dismantling of the Colorado Avalanche is about to get underway.  Gabriel Landeskog rumours are popping up everywhere, the scout watch at their games is on, and you have to believe we are going to see upwards of 4 none UFA’s get moved off this roster, in addition to the Jarome Iginla types that’ll be on the move.  One guy who isn’t really getting mentioned as available or unavailable at this time however is Tyson Barrie, and he is the guy the Edmonton Oilers would likely love to get their hands on above anyone else.

It should be added that Dater is likely more plugged into the Avs organization than any other media personality out there.

 

It was no secret last offseason that the Oilers were extremely intrigued as to what was going to happen with Barrie.  From April until the week before the draft, most in the hockey world didn’t think he was about to be dealt, they knew it.  It was just a matter of when and to whom.  Then Joe Sakic came out and declared that Barrie wasn’t going anywhere, which cooled the rumours, but didn’t kill them seeing how he had said the same thing about Ryan O’Reilly right before trading him moments before the 2015 draft.  But things did get settled with the Barrie camp and he re-signed for 4 years/22 million.

 

The big question here for the Avs is why?  Why would you move this guy?  He is just now entering his prime, he’s locked down for the next three seasons, the Avs weakness is on the blueline, and D-men…especially right handed shooting puck movers….are near impossible to find.  So that’s a pretty damn good list of reasons not to do it, but I think there might be a few reasons for the Avs to pull the trigger on moving Barrie out if you dig a little deeper.

 

First of all, the return.  Again I’ll go back to “look at what the Devils got for Adam Larsson”.  I highly doubt anyone would give the Avs  one for one in the middle of the season for Barrie, but he would still net them a massive return.  Saying this immediately makes me think they’ll push any possible Barrie talks to the offseason with the reasoning being “there is no rush, and in the offseason we’ll have 30 teams looking to deal for him”.  I hear that logic all the time, but the truth is that GM’s aren’t anywhere near as desperate in the offseason as they are at the trade deadline.  Plus, for a 26 year old D-man with three years left, anyone who wants him in the offseason will be in on him now.  The offseason won’t make a lick of difference.  So if they did move him by the trade deadline, they would be doing so at his peak value.

 

Second, if this team is going to tear it down, they’ll likely look to be a cap floor team.  The fans in Denver likely aren’t going to be overly excited about another rebuild after they just went through an 8 year process that netted them two playoff appearances, neither of which were actual progression but rather just two lucky seasons.  So that could be a very empty building for the next couple of seasons, and they have some contracts which will be extremely tough to get off the books.  Yes, guys like Duchene and Landeskog are likely to go first, and they have big contracts.  But with any trade involving a big contract now in the NHL, salary pretty much has to be coming back.  So for example, Duchene will likely be dealt.  But they’ll likely only get as much as 3 million off the books for next season.  Then you have guys who are either unmovable or you’ll have to eat the same salary if you move them like Beauchemin, Varlamov, Johnson, Soderberg, Comeau, and Colborne.  And we know MacKinnon isn’t going anywhere.  So from a team budget point of view it could be in the Avs best interest to move Barrie.

 

Third, and this is more so a question, but do we know things are now good with Barrie and the Avs?  I know I always assumed the issue was between him and Patrick Roy, but I don’t know that it was JUST between those two, and I’m not sure others do either.  It could be the case, but it is something I would like an answer to and have never really heard one.  There is also the mindset that you simply just need to shakeup the room.  This core isn’t working, so you have to move on, and Barrie is a big part of this teams core.

 

So this leads to me to the Oilers, and IF the Avs were willing to move Barrie, what might they want?  Like I said earlier, it’ll have to be big.  One nice chip the Oilers have, especially for the Avs, is Caleb Jones.  He played great for the Americans at the World Juniors, he’s nearly a PPG player defenceman in the WHL this season, he’s not far away from playing in the show, and from a marketing standpoint he grew up in Denver.  He’s not a right handed shot like Barrie is, but he is a damn good prospect.

 

They’d also without a doubt need to part with their 2017 1st round pick (this would leave the Oilers without a pick until the 3rd round of the draft).  It happens in just about every deal for a relatively big name, and I believe you’re going to see a lot of 1st round picks on the move between now and February 28th.  It isn’t near as tough of a pill to swallow this year as it’s been in years past.  And besides, who at this point and time would you like the Oiles to get?  Cale Makar?  An undersized, right handed shooting D-man who you’re hoping will become a Tyson Barrie type?

 

I believe Mark Fayne would be in the deal.  The Oilers would need to shed his contract, and for the Avs you’ll have to take on some salary anyway so why not get a RH shot guy who can take the beatings from top lines for a season?  He’d be a cheap buyout after the season, or perhaps Vegas takes him in the expansion draft?

 

We are still lacking a pretty big piece in this deal.  So I believe the Oilers would need to take a very tough look at one of Oscar Klefbom or Brandon Davidson here.  Klefbom on top of all that would likely be too much, so I like Davidson as the guy even though I really love the game both guys bring to the table.  The tricky thing with Davidson could be that his value is a little unknown right now.  He’s proven he can play in the NHL, I see him as a solid number 4 guy as early as next season, but it’s tough to tell how other teams may value him.

 

It’s kind of weird talking about the Oilers packaging D-men (in this case one on the current roster and one who could be the top D prospect), but it’s become a strength in the organization.  You’d still have Klefbom in this scenario, plus Sekera, Nurse, Oesterle, Reinhart, and Simpson (don’t get me wrong, not saying we love the latter three, but they can play on a bottom pair).  You also have kids like William Lagesson and Markus Niemelainen in the system too who aren’t anything flashy, don’t put up numbers offensively, but they both look like solid stay at home types who have mobility, can move the puck and have a chance to play.  Finally, it sure sounds like they want to re-sign Kris Russell.  As I wrote about last week, that’s not ideal in my mind mainly because of what he may cost, but he would make them even deeper on the left side.

 

So for me, I think a pretty solid offer would be Davidson, Jones, Fayne and their 2017 1st round pick for Barrie.  From the Avs point of view you get a kid in Davidson who is actually only 26 days younger than Barrie, but will be a lot cheaper for next season, and the Avs have a need for LH shooting D-men.  You also add two big chips to your prospect pool, and as I said earlier a guy in Fayne who can chew up some tougher minutes next season that’ll shelter some of their kids.  Obviously for the Oilers, you fill a massive hole in your lineup.  He would bring some big time offensive punch from the backend that they lack, specifically on the PP where he would likely slide right onto the top unit.  Darcy McLeod did this great piece digging real deep on Barrie last spring:

http://becauseoilers.blogspot.ca/2016/05/oiler-right-shot-dman-search-2-tyson.html

 

They likely could do Klefbom who is a longer term and smaller cap hit straight up, but I feel like the organization having just committed long term to Klefbom like they did won’t want to move him unless of course it was for a guy they simply couldn’t say no to.

 

Would the Avs do that deal?  I don’t know.  I do believe that’s a real solid offer, but again I’m pretty high on Davidson.  Some might call that being a homer.  And I wouldn’t blame the Avs if they wouldn’t want to move Barrie.  You really need a solid blueline to do a rebuild, something that neither they or the Oilers had all these years.  But you also really need to build up the system.  And the Avs are a bad team with a very shallow prospect pool.

 

The watch is now on though.  Should the Avs be willing to move Barrie, expect the Oilers to be one of the teams most often mentioned as they continue to overhaul their blueline.

 

Before I get going today, I came across this post on facebook Saturday night.  I don’t know Tina or Jason quite frankly, but I know quite a few people that do and figured having a little platform I would try to help out and hopefully a few of you can do the same, so give the link a click and watch the video:

Tina Kenyon

 

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