I was very negative about the Oilers after our offseason. I thought we simply got worse because of Chia. We replaced our third leading scorer Eberle with Strome, cap space and an invisible offer sheet. Never did anything about missing our top Dman from last season (Sekera) and did nothing to improve our backup situation. We also left money on the table for some reason that I still don’t understand. I felt a lot of our plan was built on ‘hope’. Hope that Shlepyshev or Caggiula become 50 point men (not even close, in fact, they combined for 32 points). Hope that Lucic continues to be a dominant 50 point ‘power forward’. (he was for half a season). Hope that Drai improves after a sensational playoff run (he did not). Hope that Benning takes big steps forward (he did not). Hope that Strome regains a scoring touch from his rookie season (he did not). Hope that Connor gets better (he did). Hope that Nurse gets better (he did). Hope that Talbot remains spectacular (he did not). Hope that Broisoit becomes a very good NHL backup (not even close). It was so much hope and I hope Chia loses his job for ‘betting on these guys’.
Now, for the record, I was wrong on a lot of things. I thought we were DEFINITELY a playoff team but fighting for 8th and sneaking in. This is where I had HOPE that we’d use cap space at deadline to trade for someone good to make a playoff run.
Here are some of my season finale observations and followup on some themes:
Connor McDavid. In every conceivable way he got better. He started to shoot more. He started to score more. He was our entire offence. I don’t think many people feel he isn’t the best player in the game. He is not overpaid next season or the 10 after that. Everything about Connor was better this year. What stinks is that he probably won’t win the Hart despite improving in every area because of the dud of a team around him. Imagine that? You win the MVP, improve and don’t win it the next season. We just had him on the cheap for 3 seasons and made the playoffs once. What a waste! I hope he goes to Denmark and scores 40 points on the way to a gold medal and MVP at the tournament. I hope RNH is on his wing the entire run as well. I hope Nurse is there as well. I hope I never have to talk about Oilers dominating a World Championship again. Neat Stat: McDavid has more points than our 3rd, 4th and 5th leading scorer combined! He was 10 points shy of having more points than our 2nd and 3rd leading scorer as well.
Drai - I felt he was overpaid by ‘2 million a year’. I had some discussions with Patrick over this throughout the year and realized I was wrong about ‘2 million’ but he is overpaid by at least 1 million a year for 8 years. He was definitely an overpay at 8.5 million per. I considered his comparables for contracts to be Tarasenko (7.5 million per, whom he outscored this season by 4 points in 2 less games), Kusnetsov (7.8 million per, who had 13 more points than Leon and 1 extra game) and Pastrnak (6.7 million per, who currently has 9 more points and 3 extra games as of this writing). Point per game wise Drai was also behind Kuznetsov and Pastrnak but ahead of Tarasenko. He gets paid the most out of all 4 of these guys but is statistically third. I’ve heard the Ryan Johannson argument but, to me, that is a terrible contract and shouldn’t be used as a comparable. If Chia signed Johannson for that much I’d be all over him for that too! Drai should’ve got around 7 million to be a deal and 7.5 to be fair based on the market at that time. That extra 1 to 1.5 million buys you a player that could help out (aging veteran, hungry newcomer).
Drai finished 36th in points. Drai finished 43rd in .ppg for players with at least 50 games played. Drai needs to carry his own line and be a point per game player to earn 8.5 a year. I hope he does that next season and think he might but I won’t consider him a ‘point per game’ player until I see 82 points in April.
Talbot - Going into this season, Talbot had my longest leash of anyone. I blamed everything but him until about February. Then it was clear he was just having a bad year. To me, the big difference between a good NHL goalie (which he was last season) and a mediocre one (which he was this season) is bad goals. Eg. first shot on net, weird bounce, poor rebound control. A handful of those per season for a goalie and that is the difference. Last year Cam had 7 shutouts compared to 1 this season. This season represents 27% of his entire career. He finished with a .908 and 3.02 GAA. His career average is .918. I think the truth lies somewhere in between. A save percentage of .912 would’ve finished 28th out of goalies who played at least 25 games. The .918 career average would’ve been 20th place in case you were wondering. I have very little to suggest he’ll be in the mid .920’s next season based on his 3 seasons as a starter and that is where the best goalies tend to sit.
The backups were horrendous and we still have one signed for next season. Montoya finished with a .893 in 13 games played. Brossoit finished with a .883 in 14 games played. They won a combined 5 games between them. My hope is that we sign someone to push Talbot next season.
Nurse made great progress and improved and has become what I think we hoped he would become. Benning regressed pretty badly though. Sekera was very bad but I think he’ll be back to form next season as I blame the surgery (ACL) and the recovery time (6 months to play, 1 year to feel the same again).
Rattie, Aberg and Bear. I really hope we’re not banking on any of these guys to break out next season? This would be similar to the hope for Shlep and Caggiula last season. I thought Khaira was great. He is a very solid bottom 6 player.
If the plan is for Lucic to lose weight, can someone explain to me where he is losing it from? He in no way looks chubby to me. In fact, I’m willing to bet he is a beast at the gym and in tremendous shape with very little body fat.
I hope we draft a Dman. I want Bouchard or Boqvist and then I immediately want them to not join the team for 2 seasons and develop properly. Having said that, I think we’ll end up drafting a forward and putting them in the NHL right away. This means our Top 6 will have Yamamoto, ‘shiney new forward’, Aberg, Rattie rotating in and out of it. This is not a good plan. We need proven scorers while those guys develop (favourable zone starts, sheltered minutes, a tonne of minutes in the AHL).
I’m not sure what is going on with ‘developing’ Jesse. I am sure that we did more for Rattie’s development in garbage time at the end of the season. I would’ve preferred to see Jesse with either Drai or McDavid with him for the rest of the season. He does have a lot of potential and I felt like we didn’t help him one bit this second half. Curious if he goes to World’s and how he gets deployed?
Strome I enjoyed very much. I’d like him as a 3C for next season. He got 4 more points in 13 extra games than last. His .ppg average went down compared to last, noticing a trend yet? I feel it is safe to say he is a 30 to 35 point guy for the bottom six. He finished 4th on the team in scoring with those 34 points. Let that sink in... our 4th and 5th leading scorers had 34 points.
Eberle got 59 points which would’ve put him 3rd on the Oil again. I feel it is safe to say he is a 50 to 60 point 2nd line NHL player.
Hall had a career year. 93 points, led his team to the playoffs and is circulating in Hart Trophy talks.
RNH finished 3rd on the team with less than 50 points. I feel he had a great year and want him back on line 1 next season playing wing with McDavid. Having said that, how does a guy who played 62 games and got 48 points finish third in scoring on the team? There is no depth on the Oil and I don’t see much coming.
I was very much opposed to the Russel contract. Needs to be said, he played well. 21 points was pretty good too. He earned his salary this year and I believe he’ll earn it again next year. I still hate the contract (NMC, 4 year term), I still laugh at his 5 hole goal on Talbot but I do believe that if Kris Russel is on your third pairing then you have a good set of D. It’s when Kris Russel is in your top 4 that I worry.
Please don’t sign Patrick Maroon to a similar type contract that Lucic and Russel got (eg. overpay a veteran, too long a term and NMC).
Pouliot ended up with 19 points. I still think we should’ve kept him and traded at deadline for anything.
Yakupov ended up with 16 points on a team that did very well for itself. That was a tremendous opportunity for him. KHL?
One positive that I’ve noticed lately. Chia seems to be restocking the AHL with prospects. Safin, Maksimov and Benson are all in the AHL now. The young College guys Chia picked up will be there eventually (one signed today). The AHL should be about developing prospects and I’d rather see young guys in that league losing than 25 to 30 year olds who will never crack the NHL. I do feel Miroslav Svoboda could end up being a good goalie in North America. Hoping we get him to the AHL next season or that he signs in the KHL. He had a very strong season and could end up being a late round steal.
As upsetting as I found this year, I’m not sure I see us being better next year. A common saying here lately is that ‘we’re a lottery team without Connor’. This speaks to how bad the rest of the team is around him. Good teams could deal with losses to their top player. We can’t even win with our Top 2 players healthy all season.
And of course, fire Chia!