Blueline Problems…But Good Blueline Problems


I’m going to start off this piece by asking you all if notice as well that New Year’s is really just a massive crutch for all of us?  “I’m going to change a bunch of things in my life, and I’m going to make them my New Year’s resolution!”  What?  Why can’t they be your Tuesday at 8:06 AM resolution?  What makes a new calendar going up on the wall necessary for that to be possible.  And while I KIND OF get the excuse to party that night (any excuse to party is a good excuse, because I like to party…alright?  Guys like him, they don’t like to party.  But we do.  “Yeah, girls think I’m cool *place man belching audio here*) where in the f*** was I?!  Oh yeah, I KIND OF get the excuse to party, but why are so many people rocking whatever the year is on their faces and celebrating like they’re about to be accepted in past those pearly gates?!  Tools.  Absolute tools.  Want to change something in your life, do it!  That’s it, Nike has been telling you the key for decades now.  January 1 is no different than August 27.


ANYWAY….onto the Oilers.


It hasn’t been a few months for the Oilers analytics crowd.  Their numbers tell us that the Hall-Larsson deal was a train wreck, yet the Devils are worse than at this time a year ago, and the Oilers are much better.  I agree with them that the Oilers didn’t get the value they should have got in that deal (pretty sure we all agree with that) and there for Peter Chiarelli likely shouldn’t have been so desperate.  Having said that, I could care less what the metrics say, Adam Larsson has improved the Oilers defensively a lot.  I don’t care what Larsson’s minutes are night to night, I’m extremely happy as an Oilers fan to have him on the team.  And what people seem to forget is that Larsson will likely continue to improve, where it’s very likely that Hall is near his peak (even though they’re only a year apart, the prime for a defenceman is of course a lot different from that of a winger).  The analytics crowd also hate Milan Lucic, but a lot of what Lucic brings to the table you simply cannot measure.  You have no clue what kind of intimidation he brings to an opposing lineup, what kind of leadership he brings to a dressing room, what kind of backbone and swagger he brings to the rest of the team.  Add to that 50-60 points who dominates on the wall and is pretty reliable in his own zone (OT goal in San Jose notwithstanding).


Analytics are extremely useful and you’re a dinosaur if you think otherwise.  But a lot of the analytics crowd remind me a lot of American liberals in that they can’t figure out that they’re the problem.  A lot of their message is good, but the way a lot of them are presenting that message is awful.  The majority seem to be extremely vocal and all that does is turn people off.  It’s exhausting reading through some of the better analytic guys Twitter feeds.  “I’m right, you’re wrong, and if I can’t measure it in numbers then it doesn’t exist.”  This isn’t a video game or robots playing you know fellas.


Anyway, by no means am I meaning to shit on analytics guys (and fully admit I just did), but it does lead me to one of their hot button players, Kris Russell.  The debate that is now on going amongst Oilers fans and media as to whether or not they should sign him to an extension.


The window to do this is now open.  And Russell doesn’t look good by the metrics.  I personally hated the signing.  But much like Lucic, what he does bring to the table can’t be measured.  He’s a guy who is willing to do whatever it takes to win a hockey game, and you can’t tell me that having those type of players on a team doesn’t have an affect on the rest of the room.  From all accounts he is a great guy in the room, good leader, tough, gets his nose dirty, all great qualities that you want to rub off on others.  Over 82 games, that shit matters, I don’t care if you don’t have a way to measure it.


But having said all this, I’m not seeing a reason to re-sign this guy.


They got him cheap.  The word was that he wanted over 5 million per from the Leafs at the beginning of free agency.  Everyone seemingly balked at that, and Chiarelli was able to scoop him up at the last minute for a very reasonable 3.1 million for 1 season.


Moving forward however, where is the fit?  The Oilers have one big need on the blueline and that is a right handed shot, preferably 2nd pairing defenceman who can QB their PP.  They don’t need lefty D-men.  Sekera, Klefbom, Davidson, and Nurse are all locked up for next season.  Should they lose a guy for nothing in the expansion draft like Brandon Davidson, Dillon Simpson is emerging on the farm.  Jordan Oesterle looked good when with the club last season.  And they still at least have Griffin Reinhart.  I’ve given up on his hopes to be a top 4 D-man in the NHL, but I don’t think you can completely write him off at 22 years old.  So they’re set on the left side, and really don’t look like they have an opening for Russell next season.


Now, the first thing detractors would likely point out is if I love intangibles and “unmeasurables”, then why wouldn’t I want that back?  Well more than any other reason is the cost.  Russell is likely going to want some security.  So I’m guessing he’s looking for at least 3 and as many as 5 years on a deal, north of 4 million per season.  No thank you.  Those qualities have a limit, especially when others are on the roster who can fill that role.


Realistically, the Oilers could let Russell walk, and still dangle one of Klefbom, Nurse or Davidson in a package to land that top 4 RH shot PP QB they’re so desperate for.  I’m not saying they should do that, but just that they have that luxury.


I believe the organization is wise enough to realize this.  But while I don’t see a reason to re-sign him, if they do, it’s a virtual guarantee that they’re trading one of their young LH shot D-men.  At this point, I really wonder if they wouldn’t consider dangling Klefbom?  He’s on the first season of a very affordable 7 year deal, and as you’ve likely noticed, he’s not playing great.


In his first 20 games I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.  Coming off his injury problems, there would have to be rust.  But since that point nothing has really changed.  By no means am I saying they should give him away.  But with similar guys to Klefbom in Nurse and Davidson, and then Sekera locked down for another 4 seasons, Klefbom could be a very attractive trade chip.  If you can land a guy who fits what the Oilers need a lot better then I think you really have to look at it.  If you’ve read my stuff, you know how highly I think of Klefbom.  But I prefer the Oilers be as good as they possibly can be rather than having a team simply made up of players I like.


But again, I would only even consider that thought if they re-signed Russell.  The first option for me is to let him walk.  Don’t move him at the deadline (unless of course they crash and burn in the 2nd half), but let him walk after the season.  Thanks for coming, we appreciate your contributions, here is a signed picture of you and Katz kid from the day you joined the organization, good luck in Brooklyn.


Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

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