Our three part roundtable continues today, where our All-Star series of writers will use a garden tool to dig into the defence. They'll also also discuss Milan Lucic's time as an Oiler so far.
We've got Shona, Sunil, Minnia, Scott, Corey and Matt for you once again.
Here Come The Warm Jets
3. Matthew Benning has been a nice surprise for the Oilers this year, but it looks like he'll be out for a little bit after suffering a facial injury stemming from a hit on Friday. The Oilers have recalled Jordan Oesterle and Griffin Reinhart from Bakersfield. McLellan has shown that he's not averse to playing a defenceman on his off-hand. Between the trio of Oesterle, Reinhart and Gryba, who would you like to see get the lion's share of the ice while Benning recovers?
Shona: This is one where everyone tells me I’m wrong but Reinhart. There’s a logical business reason for that. It’s simple. If Reinhart is never going to play in the NHL for the Oilers, they need to know now. Their management and coaching staff know that and playing Reinhart is the only way to tell if he’s going to be able to hack it. So they play him. Besides that, they’ve had good reports coming out of Bakersfield this year, so they might as well.
Sunil: If Benning is out, I'd keep Davidson and Gryba together as the third pair. They have plenty of experience together and posted a respectable 53.63% Corsi For in a predominantly third pairing last season. They did see more and more minutes playing higher up the depth chart together before Davidson was hurt. (Source: Corsica Hockey).
Minnia: RISE, GRIFFIN, RISE! I have been waiting for this for so long-- keep your eye on what's important and Reinhart is in a make-or-break stage of his career. Let's see what he's got, and he's been playing well of late
Scott: I really don't know enough about how Reinhart and Oesterle have been playing in the AHL to choose one of them, but I would certainly like for (at least) one of them to win the day over Gryba on merit. Reinhart seems to be establishing his offense a little in the AHL over the last month, so I'll maybe go with him. He's certainly the player I'm most looking forward to seeing
Corey: Oesterle, and I don't find it to be particularly close. The Condors' representative at the All-Star game is one of the top puck-movers in the organization. Not just in the minors, I'm talking about the big club as well. Physically, he's limited by his small frame. He may not be the cycle-breaker that the other guys are, but his skating and passing is far and away better than any other fringe defender in the organization. I thought he looked great on Sunday, even though Bob Cole never once said his name (because I'm 99% sure he didn't know how to pronounce it).
Matt: I'd like to see Reinhart get the minutes, because that will mean that the Oilers didn't piss away two assets for absolutely nothing. I know that I won't see that, however, and honestly I don't really think a question like 'which 7th defenseman would you like to see playing' has an answer that matters anyway. Gun to my head, I guess I'd say Oesterle, and only because he's shown he's probably one of the better defenseman in the AHL this season.
4. Milan Lucic was signed to a 7 year, 42 million dollar contract at the beginning of the unrestricted free agency period this last July. How would you grade his first season in Edmonton so far?
Shona: No one wants me to do this because he’s a positive figure in the locker room or whatever rhetoric has been used to cover the fact he’s drastically underperforming on the ice. He’s the only player I’ve seen stats for this year that actually got worse at scoring points on McDavid’s line. Maroon has been what Lucic was supposed to be. I’d charitably give Lucic a C-. I’d give the people that arranged his contract for the Oilers an F.
Sunil: He has been dreadful. Third on the team in points per hour at 5v5, with 1.01, only ahead of Pouliot (1.00) and Caggiula (0.90). He was great with McDavid, as the team got 64.3% of all of the goals when they were on the ice together, but away from McDavid, the team gets only 33.3% of the goal share. It's obvious he needs a skilled center to play with, but the team isn't exactly doing him any favours playing him with Caggiula.
Minnia: I think he really does provide a level of physicality that the Oilers have been missing. The offensive side can pick up more for sure, and if this continues to trend it will be worrying for the later years of the contract, but many were expecting this, anyways. I'd give him a B-, with bonus marks for being Connor's #1 fan and bodyguard.
Scott: The lack of even strength offense is disheartening. Lucic was among the top 100 even strength scorers in all of the previous six seasons and among the top 30 even strength scorers in four of the previous six seasons. He played with Connor McDavid a lot to start the year. The result? He's in a tie for 220th. The increased power play scoring (relative to his career norm) has helped to salvage the year offensively, but part of what made Lucic such an attractive bet is his ability to produce offense at evens. I can only hope this year is an anomaly.
Corey: I'm sure I'll be less critical of Lucic than most of my counterparts. Historically, Lucic has done two things that stats nerds, like us, appreciate. He has usually had a positive influence on shot-rate based stats, and he has had a notably high shooting % throughout his career. He hasn't done either of these things this season. However, there is still hope. DTMAboutheart's XPM model, which is the best predictor of a player's ability to influence xG% in the future, still likes Lucic. https://public.tableau.com/ profile/sean.tierney#!/ vizhome/XPMTotalImpactbyteam/ Dashboard1, and if he's been a great shooter his whole career, his sh% won't stay low forever. One thing I noticed, that I was not expecting at all, is that Lucic has drawn 14 more penalties than he's taken this year. That's a phenomenal differential. Only McDavid and Draisaitl have been more effective, among Oilers, in that regard this year. Kudos to the big man for helping the team get the edge in powerplay opportunities.
Matt: Underwhelming. I had hoped we would get a couple years of good Lucic before seeing OK Lucic, but we're Oilers fans and we don't get nice things.
Our roundtable concludes Friday with talk about the second season and expansion.