The Plan

The Coach:
Dallas Eakins is struggling but he isn’t the biggest problem. He has 2 years left on his contract after this season, so he should survive the year. He’s overmatched every bit as much as his players. But this isn’t his fault.
Where does the re-re-rebuild start?
 At 12:01AM January 1st, 2015 Craig MacTavish has to negotiate a deal with Jeff Petry. He plays 20 minutes a game and the Oilers need experience on the back-end. If “the plan” is to play Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom on the left-side next year, they’ll need Petry and Fayne on the right-side to balance the rookies. That said, the minute Petry  says he won’t re-sign in Edmonton, they have to trade him. The Oilers can’t risk losing him for nothing should he get injured or choose to leave as a UFA this summer.
 What happens if the Oilers don’t get the 1st or 2nd pick in the 2015 draft?
Honestly, MacTavish should make it known publicly that the Oilers 1st round pick is available. He has to create a market even if he has no intention of trading it. The 3rd, 4th, and 5th picks have tremendous value this year and Edmonton doesn’t have time to develop another rookies that aren’t generational talents.
The free agent list is pretty thin this year. Good teams sign good players before they hit the market. Go figure. I’d like the Oilers to sign another center. A player like Antoine Vermette would give the Oilers a lot of support down the middle. It’s risky because you’re buying 4 or 5 years for a 33-year-old, but the Oilers young centers need help.
The Blueline
They can’t start next season with Klefbom, Marincin, and Nurse on the left side. That isn’t enough experience to realistically expect the team to make progress in the standings. A right side without Petry would be crippling. It’s imperative to re-sign him.
In a perfect world, trading Justin Schultz + Oilers 2nd round pick (#31) for a more established defenseman would be ideal. It will likely be Martin Marincin on the way out though.
In Net
It looks like Tampa has their #1 goalie in Ben Bishop. They also have to top rate goaltending prospect Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Oilers should do everything they can to get a young goalie in their system that has a legitimate chance as being a #1 goalie in the next 3 years.

Hlinka 2015 and the 2016 NHL Draft

As I’ve mentioned on twitter, the ’98 born (CHL rookies) players are fantastic group. After watching the U17 camp in Calgary, I wanted to take an early look at Canada’s 2015 Ivan Hlinka team and the 2016 NHL draft.  Honestly though, it’s too soon. I’ve seen some of these players over 50 times and others only three times in 51 minute games. Putting a full lineup together this early isn’t fair, but I’m confident these players will most likely be on the team. In no specific order;

LW – Tyler Benson #1 Vancouver WHL. Powerful skater, great offensive instincts, and plays with a physical edge.

C – Adam Mascherin #2 Kitchener OHL. Ridiculous hands and scoring ability.

C – Michael McLeod #5 Mississauga OHL. Fantastic skater, makes good plays with the puck, exceptional on face-offs.

RW – Tyson Jost BCHL. Pure goal scorer. Lead 17Camp with 8 points in three 51 minute games. Might go NCAA route.

C/RW – Nolan Patrick #4 Brandon WHL. Strong on the puck. Good offensive skills. Played RW at U17 camp but is more of a center.

LD – Sean Day #4 (2013) Mississauga OHL. Phenomenal skater. Likes to rush with the puck a lot.

LD – Jakob Chychrun #1 Sarnia OHL. Good defender with size. Very mobile. Might play for USA?

Other players that stand out and will likely make the team include; C Sam Steel, C William Bitten, C Brandon Saigeon, LW Travis Barron, D Dante Fabbro, and D Luke Green.

 As for goalies, I’m terrible at evaluating them. There were 12 goalies invited to the U17 Camp. Samuel Harvey and Stuart Skinner were solid considering who they were up against. But like I said, I’m far from a goalie guru.

 I’ve also been hearing a lot of hype about the Fins available in 2016. And it’s legit. 2 Big forwards with excellent scoring ability.

 Jesse Puljujari

 Patrik Laine

  It’ll be interesting to watch most these players in November at the U17 Challenge and throughout their rookie season’s in the CHL. Obviously, a lot of things can change in the next year, but this looks like a fantastic group of players. If the 2015 NHL draft is supposed to be ‘deep’, well, I think 2016 might be even ‘deeper’. The top 10 picks look outstanding and there are at least 15 other ’98 born Canadians with tons of skill and potential.

The 2015 Draft.

For about a year, we’ve heard about how ‘deep’ the 2015 NHL Draft will be.  I think we can all agree, Connor McDavid will be the 1st overall pick.  There is absolutely no debate about this no matter what, right? As of today, my guess is the draft will go:
#1- Connor McDavid (C)
#2- Jack Eichel (C)
#3- Noah Hanifin (D)
#4- Mathew Barzal (C)
#5- Pavel Zacha (LW) 

With (C) Colin White, (C) Dylan Strome , (C) Mikko Rantanen, (D) Oliver Kylington, and (C) Travis Konecny in the mix. 
 From an Oilers perspective:
They might be 6 wins better this season (80pts) which probably means drafting 5th or 6th. And that’s fine with me. The next two drafts should address both of their biggest needs. If they’re better, but not .500 this year. There are some nice centers to choose from. The top 8 players available in 2015 look very good. So, there’s a big difference between winning 6 more games and drafting 5th or 6th. And say, winning 10 more games and drafting 9th to 12th.
The 2015 pick should add a quality center to support Nugent-Hopkins and Leon Draisaitl or push them down the lineup. Which is exactly what the team needs to compete for a playoff spot in the West. In a perfect world, they’re able to draft an elite center in 2015. Someone that can be an impact player in the NHL sooner than later.  
With most of the top prospects playing for Edmonton in 2015-16. The Oilers pick will be in the range of 9th to 15th. It should fill out the Oilers depth chart nicely. Hopefully the last piece too. There are a bunch of defenseman to choose from in 2016. It looks to be every bit as ‘deep’ as this year. Whatever happens in 2015-16 happens, but that’s when I expect the team to finally make traction.
7 drafts since the “official rebuild” started and 10 years out of the playoffs. OUCH! And it leaves a window of about 3 or 4 years for the Oilers to make the playoffs and push for a Stanley Cup with Eberle, Hall, and Nugent-Hopkins under contract. That’s not too bad, is it?

What is $1.5M worth?

Let me preface this by saying I have nothing against David Perron, or trading Magnus Paajarvi for him. I think Perron has a good chance to score 20 goals and close to 50 points as the Oilers 2nd line LW. Which is a nice upgrade on a player who has yet to establish himself as a top 6 forward.

Trading Paajarvi created a hole at LW3.  So what will it cost the Oilers to fill that position? They’ll probably trade an asset for a player that will cost about $1.5M to $2M. And possibly retain some salary. Where I’m going with this is, is that the Oilers asset management failed again July 5th.

Back in June, I suggested that Valtteri Filppula would have been a good fit for the Oilers. He eventually signed a 5-year $25M deal with Tampa, which is a bit expensive, but in hindsight still could have worked well for Edmonton.  I’m not saying he would have signed the same deal here, but maybe for an additional $250K/year he might have.

Valtteri Filppula is essentially the same player as David Perron or better over the last 3 seasons.

  • PPG: Perron .61- Filppula .63
  • Corsi: Filppula > Perron
  • Faceoffs: Filppula 1600+ over 50% > Perron 60 at less than 40%.

Are the Oilers deeper at LW?

  1. LW1- Hall
  2. LW2- Perron
  3. LW3- Smyth? Jones?

For $1.5M more:

  1. LW1-Hall
  2. LW2-Filppula
  3. LW3-Paajarvi  and keep the #39-44 draft pick?

I also believe Filppula would have provided a lot of help for Sam Gagner. Especially in regard to own zone faceoffs. With Nugent-Hopkins coming off injury the Oilers could have started the season:

  1. Hall-Gagner-Eberle
  2. Yakupov-Filppula-Hemsky
  3. Paajarvi-Gordon-Jones

They’ll probably start:

  1. Hall-Gagner-Eberle
  2. Perron- ? – Hemsky
  3. Jones- Gordon- Yakupov

So, for $1.5M would the Oilers have more depth short-term and long-term by spending money July 5th, or are they better off by creating a hole at LW3 and giving up a 2nd round draft pick? It seems obvious to me.


Left or Right?

The Edmonton Oilers biggest need is a bona fide #1 defenseman. Since the departure of Chris Pronger, Edmonton has tried to fill the void with Lubomir Visnovsky, Sheldon Souray, and Ryan Whitney with no limited success. It would be nice to add a LHD to compliment Justin Schultz, but Craig MacTavish should simply be trying to acquire the best defenseman available regardless of which side the player plays.

Since the retirement of Niedermayer, Lidstrom, and soon to be retired Chris Pronger, the best defenseman in the league play on the right side. Here’s a list of 10 of the best defenseman on each side in no particular order:

Left Defense:

  1. Ryan Suter
  2. Zdeno Chara
  3. Duncan Keith
  4. Niklas Kronwall
  5. Oliver Ekman-Larsson
  6. Jay Bouwmeester
  7. Brian Campbell
  8. Andrei Markov
  9. Keith Yandle
  10. Ryan McDonagh ? Dion Phaneuf? Kimmo Timonen? Alex Edler?

Right Defense:

  1. Shea Weber
  2. Drew Doughty
  3. Erik Karlsson
  4. P.K. Subban
  5. Kris Letang
  6. Alex Pietrangelo
  7. Brent Seabrook
  8. Dan Boyle
  9. Dan Girardi
  10. Slava Voynov? Justin Schultz? Kevin Shattenkirk?

Anyway, where I’m going with this is, it’s impossible for the Oilers to acquire any of the top 5 defenseman from either side without giving up one of their core forwards. So, what asset/s can they use to acquire one of the guys on the next tier?

  1. Sam Gagner
  2. Oscar Klefbom
  3. Darnell Nurse
  4. 1st round pick in 2015
  5. 1st round pick in 2014 or Ladislav Smid

Does it make sense to trade any of these assets now for one of the 7-10 defenseman? Not really. And do any of these defenseman significantly improve the Oilers chances of making the playoffs this year? Maybe a little, but it’s not worth it at that price.

The Oilers need to be patient and hope the kids continue to develop. As much as everybody wants to see playoff hockey in Edmonton, it’s not the time to blow things up for a marginal improvement on the back-end.


We wait. 




NHL Mock Draft

This is how I see the 2013 NHL Draft unfolding.

The Colorado Avalanche would like to thank the city of Newark and the New Jersey Devils for their great hospitality. We would also like to congratulate the Boston Bruins Chicago Blackhawks on their Stanley Cup championship. With the 1st pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, the Colorado Avalanche are proud to select…

  1. Seth Jones – Colorado has one of the weakest back-ends in the NHL. Adding a stud defenseman with size, mobility, hard shot, and ability at both ends of the ice is exactly what the Avs need. Jones has franchise defenseman written all over him and we’ll see him in the NHL next season. 
  2.  Nathan MacKinnon – The Florida Panthers will be thrilled to land an elite center. He’s a powerful skater and tries to make something happen every shift. MacKinnon will be a perfect line-mate for Jonathan Huberdeau. 
  3. Jonathan Drouin – Tampa has the opportunity draft Martin Louis Jr. There’s simply too much offensive skill for them to take anyone else. Drouin’s play making ability will ensure Steven Stamkos will continue to score a lot of goals for many years.
  4. Sasha Barkov – The Preds haven’t had much luck drafting or developing skilled forwards. They’ll take their time with one of the youngest players in the draft. Barkov has a strong 200′ game and the potential to be a #1 centre.
  5. Darnell Nurse – Carolina have a decent mix of top 6 forwards. Adding Nurse will hopefully be the right fit to play with Justin Faulk on the blue-line in a few years.
  6. Sean Monahan – The Flames will start their rebuild down the middle by taking the player their rivals up the highway want to draft. Monahan played on a bad team in Ottawa, but his scoring numbers suggest he’ll be a pretty good player.
  7. Valeri Nichushkin – Edmonton hold the 7th pick, but I doubt they keep it. The team they make a deal with will be getting Ivan Drago on skates.
  8. Elias Lindholm – Buffalo want to build their team down the middle. The Swedish center had a good season as a 17 year-old, and will help the Sabres add depth with Hodgson and Grigorenko at pivot.
  9. Nikita Zadorov – The big Russian defenseman will a good partner to play with Adam Larsson in a few years. At 6’5″ 230lbs he skates reasonably well.
  10. Bo Horvat – His strong play in the OHL playoffs and Memorial Cup have moved him up most rankings. Horvat is a good 2-way center with decent size. He has the potential to be a 2nd line NHL center in Dallas which would be a steal with the 10th overall pick.

Of course this is just a mock draft and a lot of things can happen between now and draft day. The ‘wild card’ will be Valeri Nichushkin. If Tampa takes him 3rd overall, I suspect there will be some movement with the 4, 5, and 7th picks.




The 2014 Pick


More magic beans?

The Oilers are in a postion where they need to fill a number of holes sooner than later in order to contend for a playoff spot in 2013-14. We’ve heard Craig MacTavish talk about his impatience and the possibilty of trading the 2013 1st round pick for immediate help plus other assets. Something I think is very likely to happen, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the 2014 pick is in play as well.

Let’s assume Edmonton trades this year’s #7. Ideally, they’re looking for someone to compliment Justin Schultz. A guy who can play big minutes, defend, and move/skate the puck out of their zone quickly. Can you say Jay Bouwmeester? Now I get that it’s unlikely he has any desire to play in Edmonton, and it doesn’t make sense to trade the #7 pick for a guy with only one-year remaining on his contract who just got traded for the #22 pick. Would it make sense to trade the Oilers 2014 pick (#14-18 range) if he signed an extention here? That makes a lot more sense to me, but still hardly makes them a lock to make the playoffs.

While I don’t think trading consecutive 1st round picks is a great idea. The Oilers are in a position where they probably have to consider it. They simply won’t improve next year by trading Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff. So, on June 30th, if I’m Craig MacTavish I make a few calls about trading the 2014 pick before dealing this year’s pick. It is risky, just ask any Maple Leafs fan, but that’s how I’d approach fixing the blueline for next year. If the Oilers can get Jay Bouwmeester and Jake Gardiner I like their chances a lot more than using their draft picks and waiting for them to develop.