WildcatOil
Who Do I Suggest? The Rest of the List

This is something that I really wanted to put some time into and write a full profile on each player, unfortunately I haven’t had the time I had originally thought I would have to do so and frankly I feel many would be a waste of time upon further review. So what I am going to do in this piece is rapid fire through the remaining list, spend varying time on varying players and possibly revise how I came about my list and then get more to the point.

The List

  • Brenden Morrow
  • Pascal Dupuis
  • Cam Atkinson
  • Vern Fiddler
  • Matt Halischuk
  • Marcus Kruger
  • Max Talbot
  • Chris Kelly
  • Sean Couturier
  • Dale Weise*


Vernon Fiddler
Fiddler is a player that is very similar to Boyd Gordon, the difference being that he’s slightly older, slightly worse at faceoffs and Gordon is slightly better defensively. In a nut shell he’s a poor man’s Boyd Gordon and thus isn’t at all what we’re looking for.

Dale Weise
No. Plain and simple, Dale Weise has put up 14 points in 118 games and simply doesn’t belong on any scoring line.

Cam Atkinson
Atkinson is a player that I believe is currently low on the depth charts of the Columbus Blue Jackets, behind the likes of Gaborik, Horton, Jarred Boll and Jack Skille. However, I feel like this is a guy that could develop behind these players and one day emerge from “out of nowhere”. The knock on this guy is he’s small, I’m talking tiny, like he wouldn’t be out of place in a cradle in Smurf Village. He’s listed at 5’7” 173 lbs and I get the hunch that’s with his equipment on. Now he wouldn’t be the first small player to play in the NHL, look at Nathan Gerbe. In fact if you want a player to compare him to Gerbe is your guy, they are separated by 1 inch in height (Atkinson is the relative giant here) and 8 lbs in weight (Gerbe the relative sumo wrestler). They both put up very similar numbers in the AHL and the NCAA in the H-East Division. In fact Atkinson appears to be the guy that stepped in to Gerbe’s skates (nobody else could get them on their little toe) at Boston College once he moved on to the pros. Gerbe had a 1.08 pts/gm average and Atkinson was 1.06 pts/gm. I truly believe that Atkinson one day could be a guy to provide a team in the NHL with quality secondary scoring. That said he’s a natural right winger (not left or center) and I’m not sure that this is an experiment we want to take on, there’s just too many unknowns in play.

Matt Halischuk
Halischuk is another guy I think could be a great addition to a team for secondary scoring, but again he is a nature right winger and will not bump Eberle, Hemsky or Yakupov off of any scoring line.

Marcus Kruger
Kruger has been a tremendous find for the Chicago Blackhawks. Not to sound like a broken record here but he too would add significant secondary scoring to any team in the NHL. However, Kruger is playing on a team behind some very strong centermen and is not heavily relied on for faceoffs with Chicago, which works out well for him as this is not a strong suit. The story is a little different in Edmonton and for us to bring in a centermen he will likely need to give Gordon’s arms a break every once in a while for important draws unless Gagner has improved astronomically in this area of his game. In addition to that I believe the his price tag would be to high to get him in a trade.

Pascal Dupuis
Yet another solid ad for depth scoring although this time age is not on the players side and frankly his production could dip any season. This means it could be this year or it could be in ten years. All that said I don’t think my arm would have to be twisted to far to add a career production 40 point guy to my 3rd line. In general we’re looking for centers but there are definite holes that could be filled on our left wing if the room was available to add this guy. That said he just signed a  4 year contract with 
a cap hit of $3.75M. No thanks.

Maxime Talbot/Sean Couturier
Philadelphia is one of the teams that is tight to the cap. Granted they free up a lot of room once Chris Pronger goes on LTIR to end his career, but they still may be looking to free up a little more room. One of the places that they appear to have some depth is at the center position. Couturier and Talbot are both players towards the bottom of the depth chart in Philly and both are under contract for the next 3 years with a cap his to $1.75M. Couturier could be 30 pt/season kinda guy and Talbot should be in the neighbourhood of 25. However, neither player is strong in the faceoff circle by any stretch of the imagination.

Brenden Morrow
How has Brenden Morrow not been signed yet? The guy has put up 542 points in 850 games in his career. In a healthy season that kind of production is good for 50 points. Throw him on a line with one of the Oilers star studded Right Wingers and I don’t care who plays in between them. At this point if he’s not sign with Carolina to a PTO in the morning, MacT should get on the phone. At this stage in the game a PTO or a 1 or 2 year deal at $3M shouldn’t be out of the question. If this is the case I think you gotta make this offer in a heart beat, he’s not a center but could be a great fit if Taylor Hall at center is a viable option.

Chris Kelly
Chris Kelly is currently under contract with the Boston Bruins for the next 3 years at a cap hit of $3M. Kelly is a 32 year old 6 foot 200 lb centerman currently listed 4th on Boston’s depthchart but with Gregory Campbell (Also known as Chuck Norris on skates) hot on his heals. Kelly has 229 points in 603 game for a production pace of 30 points per 82 games over a 9 year career, a pace that has remained consistent over the last 3 years. Kelly has a career faceoff percentage of 49.4%, however he has developed this skill greatly through out his career. Kelly has posted a 54.6% in the circle over the last 3 season which includes his best year at last year at 57.9%. Those kind of number or dominant in the circle. Over the last 4 season Kelly has started in the offensive zone a mere 46.8% of the time and Zone Finish of 50.1% that’s good for a Zone Differential of 3.3%. While this isn’t going to blow anyone away it shows he is capable of starting in his own zone more often than not and finishing in the oppositions zone more if only by a slim margin more often. This too is a stat that has been improving over the last few years of his career, last year he had a Zone Start of 33.7% and a Zone Finish of 47.4%, a more impressive differential of 13.7%. While Kelly doesn’t have stellar Corsi numbers I have no problem pointing to the point I made in my original post on this topic that Coris doesn’t necessarily accurately display a defensive forwards possession stats. To recap Kelly is a 30 point per season player, is a stud in the faceoff circle, has decent size to hold his position on the puck and is excellent at moving it from his zone to the oppositions. This is exactly the type of player the Oilers should be targeting. Even with all this working in his favour he’s not necessarily untouchable either. Even with his impressive faceoff numbers, Kelly was 3rd on Boston at faceoff percentage last season behind Bergeron and the now gone Peverley, he was 4th in total faceoffs behind Bergeron, Krejci and Campbell. However, even after all that they aren’t simply going to give this guy away, which is unfortunate given that the Oilers don’t have much to offer. They aren’t going to give up anyone in their core, they don’t have much for quality forward prospects, and Boston isn’t exactly in need for a prospect defenseman with Krug and Dougie Hamilton adding to this foundation corner-stoned by Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk. That said Bruins are currently more than $1M over the cap and may be looking to deal. The only thing I can really see working out here is a high-end draft pick and maybe a player like Ewanyk or Moroz or maybe a deal could be centered around Jujar Khaira. I’m not really sure what it’d take to get Chris Kelly in Oilers silks but if Boston’s willing to deal, Edmonton may just have to decide what they’re willing to give up for the 32 year old veteran. 

Who Do I Suggest? Artem Anisimov (Or ATeammate?)

Last week I wrote on a method of how to fix the Oilers problems on the “3rd Line” by filling out our Top 9 forwards. I followed that up the next day with an article on how well I thought Nazem Kadri would act as the solution. Since then I have taken some time off over the weekend to head up to Edmonton. Today I’m back to continue this series with a look at Artem Anisimov.

Let me start off by saying that yes I know I misspelled his name last week by calling him Atem Anisimov. My bad.

Anisimov is a name that certainly jumped off the page for me. While he is certainly a star in the NHL he’s not necessarily one of the more well known stars. But a star none the less. He was likely the biggest piece the Blue Jackets got in return for Rick Nash and for this reason I almost definitely should have had Columbus’ first line center in the list of untouchable players from the original blog, especially considering he just signed an extension.

Since this is simply not a trade that is going to keep things short on Aninsimov. Arteem has consistently had a better relative Corsi than Corsi, indicating that he has constantly been better than the team as a whole. He has also been an effective at moving the puck from his zone to his opponents, faceoffs as well as at putting up points. Columbus isn’t willing to give up this piece of their core.

The Blue Jackets have quietly been building a star studded core of players that includes, Nathan Horton, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Johansen, Marian Gaborik and R.J. Umberger along with Artem Anisimov. Now as I looked at Columbus’ depth chart I noticed that the Jackets seem to be building the Top 9 that I have so desperately wanted in Edmonton. Cap Geeks depth charts for Columbus show Nick Foligno and Mark Letestu 3rd at left wing and center respectively. Whether this is their intent or not. Letestu is a guy I would love to see in this position in the Oilers lineup.

Mark Letestu
Mark Letestu is a player that is just beginning to hit his stride in the NHL, posting production levels that would replicate 36 points in a full season, including a pace that would put him over 40 points/82 games over the last two seasons. Letestu is not the best player in the world when it comes to Zone Differential however, given his production levels and the fact that he has been over 50% in the circles in each of his 6 NHL seasons, I think Letestu would be a safe bet to target in a trade that would send some prospects/picks the other way.

While Letestu has struggled in the department of Zone Differential this isn’t necessarily a stat to be unexpected with a player starting in the offensive zone the majority of the time. Like in turnover, where you must have the puck to give up the puck; you must also start in the zone to give up the zone. To determine Letestu’s possession abilities it is a safe bet to look at his Corsi in this scenario. Mark has consistently posted positive Corsi numbers save for last season where he played on a streaky Blue Jacket team. Letestu has even been in the double digits of Corsi in 4 of 6 NHL season. While this can be attributed to a small sample size it is an impressive stat never the less.

The Verdict
While Aninsimov is likely untouchable, the Oilers may want to look at attempting to acquire Mark Letestu from the Columbus Blue Jackets. While he too was recently signed to contract extension I’m not sure that the Jackets will consider him as a part of their core like they do other players and he may be available for a package of prospects and picks. It may require a player such as Marincin going the other way but I’d say it’s a safe bet to make such a trade. Letestu is a small cap hit and would look great playing with the rest of the young fire power in the Oilers Top 9. One thing that’s for sure though is that if the Blue Jackets keep these players, they look good to be an excellent team this year. They have a high flying Top 9, a solid defensive core with the likes of Fedor Tyutin, Jack Johnson, the possible emergence of Ryan Murray, and the experience of James Wisniewski. Add that to the anchor provided by Vezina Winner Bobrovski in net and the Jackets look like they’re turning things around in a hurry.

Thanks for reading! I’m hoping to have more posted this week on potential fits for the Oilers up later this week.

-JR

Sums up the Eskimos game tonight

Who Do I Suggest? Nazem Kadri

Last night I wrote about how I went about looking for a players to fill out the Oilers Top 9. I ended that article off with the promise of a more in depth article for each player. First off I look at Nazem Kadri.

Kadri is a very interesting player to me. At the beginning of the off season I would have never considered this to be a possibility. Yes Kadri is an unsigned RFA, but Toroto kicked off the summer with a very large amount of cap space, follow that up with the fact that they bought out Komisarek and Grabovski (don’t even get me started here) and you have Dave Nonis swimming in every GM’s dream, excessive cap space and money to burn. Unfortunately all that disappeared in what seemed like a heart beat to Toronto fans, Nonis started by trading Scrivens for Bernier, then followed that up with signing David Clarkson to an absolutely ludicrous contract and paid a kings ransom to resign Bozak. What has this left Toronto with? $4.8M in cap space and both Kadri and Fransen yet to be resigned. And just like that Dave Nonis is in a bind.

Toronto is attempting to offer Kadri $3M and it just isn’t gonna happen. Kadri has reportedly asked for double that and I’m pretty sure that he knows that just isn’t going to happen either. Now many people will say that Kadri is asking for absolutely to much and argue that there is no way he can recreate the production levels he had from last year. Last year Kadri was on pace to score 75 point had he played a full length season. I would agree 100% that there is no way that he could maintain such a pace. However, this is something Oilers fans are not so foreign to whether or not they want to admit it.

When the Oilers signed Jordan Eberle they also signed Taylor Hall. The problem with this was that while Hall was obviously a much better player, he spent the season with a nagging shoulder injury and Jordan Eberle had one of those over the top season’s that he is not likely to replicate. This made it very difficult to extend Hall to a larger cap hit than Eberle. Thus, both players got signed to $6M each, 7 years for Hall and 6 years for Eberle. Similarly, I think Kadri will get paid, just not as much. I think Kadri is bartering. The Leafs are offering low and he’s asking high hoping to meet somewhere in the middle.

So if Kadri over performed in the past season, what kind of player can we really expect from him? Exluding Kadri’s OHL rookie season, he posted 236 points through 180 games for a production level of 1.31 pts/GP. If we were to apply Rob Vollman’s NHL Equivalency for the OHL of 0.3 then this translates to 32 points over an 82 game season. Through 119 games in the AHL over 3 seasons Kadri put up 106 points. After once again applying an NHL equivalency this results in 33 points in a full season. Finally if we look at Kadri’s NHL production to date, excluding this past ‘over achieving’ season, he has tallied 19 points in 51 games throughout various stints over a 3 year stretch. By extrapolating this production over a full season Kadri has posted a pace of 37 points.

So what’s it mean? With age Kadri has gotten better. Not necessarily the 75 point season better we saw this past season, but I have no doubt that Kadri could be a career 40-50 point per season kinda guy. Those kind of numbers look good to me to round out our top 3 centers.

When it comes to the possession side of the puck, Kadri has a lot of flaws. However, it’s not necessarily catastrophic and I’ve always felt that defense is something you have to learn in the NHL. Kadri has posted a less than stellar 42% faceoff rating in the NHL. While he has had a consistent number in terms of Zone Differential it has been awfully mediocre, going -1.9,-3.1, -0.9 and +3.1 in respective seasons. This stat does however indicate improvement in clearing the defensive zone and gaining the offensive. But when it comes to putting the puck to the net Kadri has been sufficient with Relative Corsi of 7.4, 10.9, 7.2 and 11.3 in each of his last 4 seasons. While overall he was being out shot he was far above the team standard on the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Verdict: 

While I’m not certain that Kadri is the best fit from this list, I do think he would do quite well here. If he works on his defensive game and improves along with Sam Gagner in this area then the Oilers could have 2 very good 2 way centers if they were to send him an offersheet. The only thing that it would come down to is what it would take to convince him to sign it. I have no doubt that the Oilers would not be able to convince him to leave Toronto with out somewhat of an over payment. I would suggest a Gagner contract of $4.8M. While I think Gagner is a better player in a few aspects of the game, I feel like this would give something for Kadri to work towards as well as completely handcuff Toronto to the point of not being able to match it. Once the Oilers have freed up the necessary cap space it wouldn’t make a difference whether he was signed for $3M or for $4.8M in terms of RFA offersheet compensation as both would demand a 1st round pick and a 3rd round pick. That makes the biggest question if you would trade those draft spots for Kadri or not. Personally I’d like to have a look at our other options first but if Kadri truely turns out to be the best option, I would have no problem signing him to such and offersheet.

Let me know what you think on Twitter @WildcatOil.

Thanks for reading,
-JR

Who Do I Suggest?

Well over the past few weeks I’ve had numerous debates about the Oilers “3rd line”. I have been a strong supporter of having an interchangeable top 9 of forwards. At this point the Oilers are getting close to this point having a solid group of 7 very skilled players up front in Eberle, Gagner, Hall, Hemsky, Nugent-Hopkins, Perron, Yakupov. With the signing of Omark it’ll be interesting to see if his defensive game has improved enough to make this a group of 8. However, at this point I’m going to discount him as while I do agree that at least one line must be defensively proficient as well to aid the primary defensive line (the 4th line if you will). While I recognize that few in this top group of forwards are stellar defensively, I do feel that if they were paired with 1 to 2 stronger two-way forwards, such a line would not be much of a liability.

Where this all began is when I would insist that Boyd Gordon does not belong in the Top 9 and the other person would ask, “Who would you put there?”. Well with out looking it up I didn’t really know who I would chose. It didn’t really seem reasonable to suggest the best two-way forwards in the league and continue the conversation based on the idea that their respective teams would be willing to give them up. So I have looked into it and searched for the player(s) I feel would be the best fit.

The initial problem I faced was how to evaluate an under-the-radar two-way forward. To do so I went to behindthenet.ca and had a look through the many stats that they keep. One catigory that I found of particular interest was zone starts and finishes.

In the world of Advanced Stats possession seems to be Hockey’s version of Baseball’s on-base percentage. For shooters this stat has long been successfully determined by Corsi. The idea behind it being that for you to shoot the puck towards the opponents net more than the puck is being shot at your net you must have possession of the puck more often. However, this stat breaks down when you look at players that have more defensive responsibilities. Players that are sent on to the ice more often when the play is in their own end and their objective being to move the puck from their end to the oppositions end. While this is mostly the job of a defensive player it is an important attribute to a two-way player as well.

What I Looked For

Where I started was looking at the difference between Zone Starts and Zone Finishes, the idea being how proficient were players at moving the puck into the offensive zone or maintaining the zone throughout their shift. In addition to this I also looked at their scoring per 60 minutes and then I added together each players difference and points per 60 minutes to be sure to find a bonafide two-way guy. This also proved to be a good way to weed out any statistical anomalies such as a guy that only played a few shifts.

So after scrounging through the forwards (not always listed as the right position but forwards none the less) who played a minimum of 30 games in the past season. I initially sorted through the players listing them by their points per 60 minutes of play time. Looking for players who score at minimum 2.00 pts/60min. My premise for this is that if you assume such a player plays 15 minutes per game then he’s scoring at roughly 0.5 pts/GP this ensured that I was finding players that could put up points for my scoring “3rd line”. I then sorted these players based on the summation stat that I calculated and looked the players who had a total sum of above 5.00.

image

Center

Looking at the Center position, the options are Ateem Anisimov, Patrice Bergeron, Sidney Crosby, Matt Duchene, Ryan Getzlaf, Bryan Little, Nazem Kadri and Steven Stamkos. And I can guarantee you that 5 of those 8 are unavailable in Bergeron, Crosby, Duchene, Getzlaf and Stamkos, now would they ever make sense on this team. In addition Bryan Little is likely just as unlikely. At any other time I’d include Kadri in this list as well but given the Maple Leafs current cap space situation and the contract dispute with Kadri, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest an offer sheet.

The players to take off this list are Nazem Kadri and Ateem Anisimov.

Wingers

Now it is possible that either Ryan Hamilton or Linus Omark COULD start the season on the left wing in the Top 9, but it’s worth a look at other players around the league that could fill out the roster. Brendan Morrow and Pascal Dupuis could be a great short term fit here as they enter the twilight of their career but the price tags could be an issue here. The guy that really jump off the page for me is another guy that was relatively unknown to me prior to all of this but I can’t ignore him given the company that he is in. Cam Atkinson has put up some intriguing numbers this past season. If you want a guy with the intangibles; size, grit, a mean streak, a good puncher…this isn’t him. He’s ANOTHER small (very small) winger, but according to this particular set of data he COULD be a good fit if he can switch to the left wing.

Another thing I looked at were guys that were extremely successful at moving the puck up the ice, but didn’t make the cut due to slightly lower points per 60 minutes numbers. To find the best fits under this criteria I first ordered every players based on who had the best Zone Differential. I then took all players with a differential greater than 10.0. These are the players that, as an example, had 40.0% zone starts and 50.0% zone finishes or better. From these players I then sorted in terms of points per 60 minutes of ice time. This eliminates any players with extreme Zone Differentials that are likely due to small sample sizes, at the very least it ensures no players are in the neighbourhood of Boyd Gordon and belong no where near a scoring line. For this the cut off point was 1.00 pts/60min. 

image**EDIT**
That should be McClement, as in Jay McClement.
***********************************************************************************

It should be noted that Boyd Gordon had a Zone Differential of 8.8, 1.18 pts/60 for a total summation of 9.98. obviously this indicates a better production that many of these players and this is where intuition must come into play. Personally the ones of interest to me here are Vern Fiddler, Matt Halischuk, Marcus Kruger, Chris Kelly, Sean Couturier and Max Talbot. Dale Weise also put up some decent numbers in some of his junior/minors season and may be an interesting choice.

Initial Answers:

  • Nazem Kadri
  • Ateem Anisimov
  • Brenden Morrow
  • Pascal Dupuis
  • Cam Atkinson
  • Vern Fiddler
  • Matt Halischuk
  • Marcus Kruger
  • Max Talbot
  • Chris Kelly
  • Sean Couturier
  • Dale Weise*

************************************DISCLAIMER***************************************

I will note that this is a very preliminary list and most be looked at more in depth as this method is not perfect and requires a lot of intuition, much of which I can not give since I don’t know a done about some of these players, but will note as an example that Lennart Petrell managed to slip through a bunch of cracks and wound up too high for comfort on this list.

As we continue to drag our feet towards the start of the season I have intentions of looking into each of these players more in depth and seeing how they would fit with the Oilers and what it would take to bring them to Edmonton if they were available at all.

Thanks for reading, I put a fair bit of effort into this post so it’d mean a lot if you let me know what you think, whether you think this is an effective method of measuring defensive ability and finding a two-way forward or whether you think I’ve just been wasting my time let me know on twitter @WildcatOil.

-JR

Oh Captain My Captain

Recently there has been a large amount of discussion revolving around who will replace Shawn Horcoff as the 14th Captain or the Edmonton Oilers. It’s ok the preseason is coming.

For the most part I’ve steared clear of these arguments because frankly there are a surprising amount of leaders on a team with so much youth. I also feel Dallas Eakins will put significant thought into this discussion.

That said given it’s been such a hot button topic and in the wake of reports from the Oilers Nation blogging network that Sam Gagner has already been chosen as the new captain I figured I’d toss my thoughts in.

First off let me say that I somewhat differ in the mainstream opinion that dictates your best player being your captain. One part of the captains many jobs is adressing the media. Players like Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, etc. will be talking to the media on a regular basis with or without a letter. I can guarantee that. So why leave them in the spot light on their own? To me that is an added distraction that could potential hurt their play. You want an example of this look to Ales Hemsky with and without a letter. Yes there were injuries invloved there too, but I believe this was a part of the issue.

Stay with me I will get to the exception.

In my mind the captain should be mire of a defensively proficient player. A “bottom 6” guy or a high end defenseman. Relax, I’m not advocating Mike Brown as captain. I’m thinking more along the lines of Ference, Smid, Nick Schultz, Gordon and if this were a few years ago Ryan Smyth.

To me this needs to be a more veteran player. A guy that will be in the line up night in and night out. This takes out both Schultz and Smyth. Smid I believe would be a great captain but he’s low on the list with this team. So that leaves Ference, Gordon, Hall, Eberle, Gagner and a mess of other young talent.

While I think Eberle would is a great leader I feel like he would follow the path of Hemsky pretty closely and may have even done so in this past season (again injuries played a factor but it’s possible). Between Ference and Gordon I believe Ference has more experience as a leader.

This brings the list down to Ference, Hall and Gagner. And this is where I get to the exception to the rule. If it has to be a skilled offensive guy he must meet two criteria. He must have experience and he must hate losing with every fibre of his being. For a young player, Gagner already has a substantial amount of experience and honestly is likely in the best pisition for a player of his age to take the reigns of an NHL team. Both Hall and Gagner have shown and absolute distain for losing throughout their but Hall is clear and away in this category.

So who should it be? In my opinion neither. Right now Gagner has the edge but in a few years down the road Hall should be a no brainer. I believe it actually physically pains the guy to lose. He loves the spot light and would handle the media no problem. The kid is a born leader. The only thing he is missing is a few more years of experience. He needs to build up more of a reputation amongst other players, coaches and fans in the league as well as with the referees. Added to that it is extremely tough to command a room of 30 year olds when you can barely order a drink in the USA.

Taylor Hall is extremely close to being one of the best captains in the league. But he’s still not quite there. This is where the problem with making Gagner captain comes in. If you do this the only way for Hall to reach his potential is to either strip Gagner or run him out of town.

So as it would appear the only option I have left is Ference. Ference is a guy that has a wealth of experience in the NHL. He has been a leader on one of the leagues best teams with the Boston Bruins. And added to that he’s 34 years old, has a 3 year contract and is on a blueline with the likes Smid, Petry and Justin Schultz and Klefbom, Nurse, Marincin and Fedun waiting in the wings. When Ference’s contract is up he’ll be 37 and a very unlikely candidate to have his contract renewed. This means his departure with the team is in the foreseeable future and when that time comes Hall will be finishing his 6th season in the NHL. The only problem is it doesn’t make any sense to make a guy the leader of a team he has never played a game for. The onlu thing that makes less sense is expecting a guy to assign a leader to a team he has never coached a game for.

Therefore, my suggestion is this: Start the season with no captian and three assistants, they can be whoever, give time for Coach Eakins to get a feel for his team and potentially for Ference to emerge as a leader on the team. Then roughly November, December or even January name Ference captain and in 3 years Taylor Hall will be a lock to become one of the greatest captains in the league.

Let me know what you think in Twitter @WildcatOil.

-JR

All Mikhail Grabovski

So I’m gonna start this off with a few precursors.

First this is a direct response to the piece Jeremy Thompson wrote yesterday on Grabovski over at The Oilers Rig after an lengthy debate we (and others) had on the subject. And I’m gonna attempt to mirror my points to his as closely as possible. If for some reason you’re reading this and haven’t already been over to their blog you gotta go check it out at theoilersrig.com it’s a great blogging site put together by Alex Thomas (@Alex_Thomas14) with some great articles by Jeremy Thompson (@Jthompson2380) and Dave Gordon (@RustyKnuckler). They also put out an awesome weekly podcasts (I believe they are recording the 5th edition as I write this).

Secondly, I am very adamantly against the idea of a Line 1 Line 2 Line 3  Line 4 mentality.  This will be important for this post. A much better system would be one with 3 lines of scoring in which effective lines play more and ideally they play similar minutes every game. IDEALLY!!! The other line should be made up of defensively effective forwards that will take the majority of the defensive zone starts and kill penalties.  Essentially you have 9 forwards you should be able to mix and match without much issue and 3 guys that can handle own zone starts.  NOT 3 GUYS THAT CAUSE YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE AND HEART RATE TO RISE IN FEAR WHENEVER THEY TAKE THE ICE.

Ok from this point on I’m going to attempt to mirror Jeremy’s article as much as possible.

Cap Space

As it currently stands the Oilers have $1.4M in cap space. Now I’m not stupid I realize that Grabovski is going to cost the Oilers much, much more than that. My solution to this is look for trade options for Nick Schultz, Corey Potter and Mike Brown. Realistically you’ll likely only get the offer of a late draft pick for Schultz. More likely you’ll have to place Potter, Brown and possibly even Schultz on waivers. By doing this the Oilers suddenly have about $6.4M in cap space. And what do we lose? We lose Mike Brown, who will likely be banned to the presd box by Eakins this year; Corey Potter, who could barely crack last years Oilers top 6 defenseman (and should frankly be no where near the NHL) and the biggest loss would be Nick Schultz. Schultz could most definitely be a NHL defenseman on just about any team in the league. Because of this, Schultz would likely be claimed off waivers even if there are no trade offers. Nick Schultz is a guy who is very undervalued in Edmonton because he spent the year playing top minutes with Justin Schultz that he just couldn’t handle, and in fairness as it turns neither could Justin. Nick Schultz is a very good 5th or 6th defenseman. The problem is with a cap hit of $3.5M the Oilers have much cheaper options in Belov, Grebeshkov and Larsen on one way deals as well as Klefbom and Marincin who will likely come out of the minors.

Is He Worth It?

In short? Yes. Grabovski’s most recent cap hit was $5.5M in Toronto and at this point I feel it is extremely unlikely he will be signed for any more than that which the Oilers would be able to manage. Grabovski has averaged a career pace of 47pts/82 NHL Games through 3 leagues (Based off current league equivalencies) since first getting his start with the Canadiens. This average would have placed him 4th in scoring in the Oilers last season behind Taylor Hall, Sam Gagner and Jordan Eberle, ahead of Nail Yakupov, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Ales Hemsky. In reality career numbers likely rank him somewhere around Hemsky and Gagner behind where Hall, Eberle, RNH and Yakupov. I would like to see him signed in the range of $4.8M but would not be surprised to see him go north of $5M.

Would He Come to Edmonton?

This for me is the deciding factor, but for different reasons than Jeremy indicated. I have just heard today that he has indicated a desire to stay in the Eastern Conference. If this is the case then not much can be done. We can’t become Edmonton, Ontario. Nor would we want to. However,  I have only heard this second hand from a follower in Twitter. What I have heard is that Grsbovski is anxious to skate on to the ice at the Air Canada Center and light the Leafs up. While an Eastern team would give him more opportunities to do this it would also mean he has to back up his talk multiple times and the Toronto media isn’t exactly forgiving if he doesn’t. In Edmonton would still give him at least one shot at doing this. Now as Jeremy pointed out part of Grabovski’s griping after leaving Toronto was the minutes he was receiving and he doesn’t think it’s likely that he will come to Edmonton to play on the “3rd line”. To clarify further this was a very defensive 3rd line where the quality of minutes were as important as the minutes themselves. This is where my second precursor comes in. Does Grabovski care if he comes to a team with RNH and Gagner already at center of he’s playing similar minutes to them with the oppertunity to push then,  maybe out play them a few nights and maybe get more minutes yet. Does he care if he’s getting those minutes in the attacking zone with the chance to score? I highly doubt it. Jeremy mentioned that he thinks the most likely landing spot for Grabo is the KHL. I disagree for a couple reasons. One being it seems the Exodus to the KHL has already happened this season and if he was going he’d be gone to training camp by now. Second, if he does that he doesn’t get the chance to take the shot at the Leafs he wanted. With more and higher quality minutes I don’t think it’s impossible for the Oilers to land Grabovski.

Would The Oilers Want Him & Is He A Fit?

I’m going to roll these into one and just say yes. Yes. YES! As I said earlier the Oilers would be foolish not to want 3 scoring lines. And if Grabovski comes in there is no reason for Hemsky to go anywhere. Let’s even say that Craig becomes MacklemoreT and really goes Thrift Shopping, picking up Grabovski at $4.8M and say Mason Raymond at around $1.5M. This would give you a top 9 of Hall, Perron, Raymond on LW; Gagner, Grabovski, Nugent-Hopkins at Center and Eberle, Hemsky, Yakupov on RW (This was intentionally listen by position in alphabetical order). This leaves Gordon with Smyth, Jones, Joensuu rotating the wings as the defensive zone line.

Jeremy pointed out that Grabovski excelled in the KHL scoring 29pts in 24 games, this translates to about 77pts/82NHL Gms, but then seemed to fall to 16pts in 48 NHL Games one the lockout ended. He pointed to a -10 +/- (-13 by Corsi) and a 48% faceoff percentage. For starters I found him listed as a respectable 51% on the dot at NHL.com so I’m not sure where he got his number from there. Aside from this what’s missing is that he was +1 RelCorsi (Granted I don’t fully understand this but I believe it had to do with the competition faced or the minutes played). Grabovski also played on a team in love with Bozak and Kadri and this they wound up being very sheltered.  This meant Grabovski took the majority of his faceoffs in his own end, 200ft from scoring a goal. In fact Behind The Net lists him as only taking 36% of his starts in the attacking zone. It is awful difficult to put up points from there. In Edmonton the situation is different. We already have Boyd Gordon to take those draws. The only time he should be taking a faceoff in his own zone is if Gordon has just come off and failed to get the puck out of the zone and if the talk his true of Gagner improving his faceoff skills the two could easily split that role.

The final point I’ll address is the issue of size. This is because frankly it’s lazy important.  It was noted that Ference is only one guy and can’t stick up for every one. This is true but my very first YouTube search of Anton Belov brought me to some pretty nasty fights so I know he can punch. Also if the left winger isn’t found you can expect to see Ryan Hamilton around and he’s got some size.

While I do have the unfair advantage of reading everything Mr. Thompson has written first then responding. I believe I brought up most of these points on Twitter during our discussion prior anyways.

Let me know what you think.

-JR



Should the Oilers be looking to the KHL?

If you’re reading my blog you likely have read many more famous Oilers blogs than mine and so you’ve likely already read Copper & Blue’s posting on this but I thought I’d add my own take on this.

I’ve said it many times as have many others but the Oilers bottom six is really in bad shape. While they lack a true top defensive pairing they have build a decent depth in the position that should sufficient for a playoff push, however it and the Oilers fantastic front end talent is poitless with out a solid bottom 6 group of forwards.

Although MacT has tried to address this issue with the additions of Boyd Gordon, Jesse Joensuu and the re-signing of Ryan Jones. Gordon may be considered to be our new 3rd line center, but I’m of the mind set a team should have 3 scoring lines and that means Gordon doesn’t fit here. Instead I would be quite comfortable with Jones-Gordon-Joensuu as the Oilers 4th line of 2013/14.

So what does this mean for their 3rd line? While I know I am nearly alone in Oil Country with this philosophy but I have no problem playing sophmore Yakupov at 3RW. If you finnish reading this and that last sentence is your gripe then put Hemsky there, it really doesn’t make a difference at the end of the day. This leaves the obvious gaps of 3LW and 3C.

While every arm chair warrior and keyboard GM across Oilers Nation (including myself) have insisted that the solution to this problem is signing Grabovski and trading for Kyle Clifford. But I’m sure most of us know that Grabovski just isn’t gonna happen. A) YEG likely isn’t even on Grabovski’s radar. B) Realistically the Oilers can’t fit Grabovski on to their payroll. And who knows what it’ll take to get Clifford.

So where else should the Oilers be looking if free agency and trade isn’t working? As Copper & Blue wrote about a short time ago there are many KHL free agents that Oilers should look to to fill such holes.

One player mentioned by Copper & Blue was Viktor Tikhonov, a 6’2” 183 lbs 24 year old as listed by the KHL website. Tikhonov is a skilled forward scoring 27 points in 39 games in the KHL last year, good enough for in the neighbourhood of 37 points per 82 games in the NHL. In addition Tikhonov was also good for a 51.1% faceoff percentage on 577 draws last year. With these kind of numbers Tikhonov could easily be the guy to slot in at 3C.

A guy I found interesting was 6’2” 200 lb LW Maxim Mayorov. Drafted by the Bluejackets who still hold his rights in the NHL, Mayorov would have to traded for but may likely come cheap given he’s been playing in Russia. Mayorov managed 22 points in 40 games this season good for an NHL equivalency of about 30 points but if he can learn to use his size in the small ice he could be an ideal 3rd line winger.

Tikhonov and Mayorov finished their past campaign 2 and 4 respectively, flanking none other than Mikhail Grabovski albeit they each had roughly 10 games in had as Grabovski returned to the NHLat the end of the lock out. This leaves the leading point getter Jakub Klepis. The 6’2” 200 lb Czech attacker scored 38 points in 45 games,  a equivalency rating of 45 points on a full NHL schedule. Klepis however has proven to be more inconsistant having been drafted to the NHL 11 years ago and just last year posting only 9 points in 29 KHL games.

If MacT could persuade Tikhonov and Mayorov to follow Anton Belov and Dennis Grebeshkov and come play with fellow countymen Nail Yakupov and sign a few 1 year deals, then the Oilers may actually be able to put together their own Russian scoring line. My only fear would be their defensive zone play.

My proposed line up would be:

Perron-RNH-Eberle
Hall-Gagner-Hemsky
Mayorov-Tikhonov-Yakupov
Jones-Gordon-Joensuu

Smid-Petry
Schultz-Ference
Belov-Grebeshkov

Dubnyk
Labarbera

(Only problem is Dubnyk may feel a bit singled out if Mayorov, Tikhonov, Yakupov, Belov and Grebeshkov all take the ice at once. Jack Michaels may also be a fan.)

~~~***UPDATE***~~~
I just found a mire recent KHL equivalency rating that would bump up the player projections for thid past year:

Tikhonov - 44pts/82 NHL Games
Mayornov - 35pts/82 NHL Games
Klepis - 54pts/82 NHL Games

For comparison:
Grabovski KHL Equivalency -
》》53pts/82 NHL Games
Grabovski Actual NHL Pace -
》》27pts/82 NHL Games

Note that Grabovski was used in a very defensive role this past season and has had multiple 50pt seasons.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

-JR

If I was Craig

While I don’t know what Mact’s plays have been this off season I know what kind of team I think the Oilers should be pushing to build. So in this post I’m going to show both of you (Over optimistic guess at two readers) what I think the lineup should look like. While I liked a lot of what MacTavish has done so far this off season, there is one move that I disliked although don’t hate, and there is one move that I absolutely despise.

The move I disliked was taking Darnell Nurse over Varli Nichushkin. While I completely understand the upside of Nurse I simply feel that the Oilers are currently heavy in defense prospects (Kelffbom, Marincin, Fedun, Gernat) and he does not address the immediate need for a top pairing defenseman. However, this is a hole that must be filled on the LW in the top six by a sizable power forward could possibly be filled via free agency or trade so I suppose I can deal with it.

The move that I do however despise with every fibre of my being is trading Horcoff for….well nothing. While I don’t know much about the defensman we acquired, from what I’ve read he’s 6-7 defenseman with a one way contract. Ergo he’s adding to the already prevalent log jam created by Ferrance, Belov, Nick Schultz, Potter, and rookie Kleffbom and we can’t send him down without putting him on waivers and losing him. Not that I would care but then we are trading Horcoff for a 6th round pick 3 years from now. At this current moment the Oilers have 2 centermen and one of them just had shoulder surgery. For those of you counting your fingers, I don’t consider Gagner a center, and Lander isn’t ready for the show yet even on the 4th line.

Yes the Oilers could also fill this hole with free angancy or a trade but make a hole you don’t need to?

All that said since I don’t believe Gagner is a center and he doesn’t have the size to be an efficient power forward so I would trade him. I think he has real value on the market. For the record, when I say size I don’t mean a puncher, I mean a guy that has the build to drive the puck hard to the net without getting knocked over by Ryan Ellis (small defender) and the skill to make a move and score.

Therefore my proposed trade would be:

Edmonton trades:
Sam Gagner
Nick Schultz
Martin Marincin
2014 1st round pick
Conditional 2015 2nd round pick

to St. Louis for:
Alex Pietrangelo
Patrik Berglund (Assuming Nurse not Nichushikin wasn’t drafted)

The conditions of the pick being Edmonton makes the playoffs in the next two years.

Now with all that said and done and assuming given the fact that I’m an NHL GM with an entire scouting staff at my disposal I would have known who Joensuu was before hand, by depth chart would look something like this:

Hall/Nugent-Hopkins/Eberle
Berglund/Grabovski/Hemsky
Paajarvi/Horcoff/Yakupov
Joensuu/Gordon/Jones
Smyth

Schultz/Pietrangelo
Smid/Petry
Ferrence/Belov
Kleffbom

Dubnyk
Khudobin

Quick notes:
I would buy out Corey Potter
Put Brown on waivers or attempt to trade him for a pick
I don’t have a problem with Labarbera, I love the signing but Khudobin would have been my first choice.
If St. Louis would be unwilling to trade Berglund given that they just signed him I would make a HARD push for Jagr.

Again I don’t know what MacT has or hasn’t attempted but this would be my to do list.

-JR

Darnell Nurse

As much as people are starting to get on MacT for not getting any deals done, that’s not my problem with what the Oilers have done today. I think MacT’s struggles to make a trade had not been for a.lack of trying. He was right on the rock of things to deal for Cal Clutterbuck, unfortunately the Islanders grossly overplayed by giving up Nino Niederreiter and I’m happy that MacTavish didn’t allow himself to get into a biding war.

Now on to what I didn’t like at the draft today. I didn’t like the Oilers passing up on Nichushkin. Not a knock on Nurse, but right now the Oilers need an NHL ready top 4 defenseman, not a defense prospect. The Oilers already have Kleffbom, Marincin, Fedun and Gernat as potential top defensive prospects and Justin Schultz, Smid and Petry don’t appear to be going anywhere. That gives the Oilers 7 young defensemen and now 8 with Nurse. While on the other hand the next major issue floor the Oilers is the bottom 6 and there is still a hole at the left wing on the second line. That to me seems like a great spot for Nichushkin to slot in playing with Yakupov. Unless they truely feel that Nurse can effectively play with J.Schultz in the top 4 and play effectively I think they made the wrong move.

-JR