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It’s almost American Thanksgiving!

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2017 Coors Light NHL All-Star Skills Competition
Taylor Hall has one more MAJOR payday left in his life. He’ll be the premiere UFA in summer and get term and dollars somewhere. A lot of people think he’ll sign to be on the 2nd line for us and maybe, even, at a discount to come back ‘home’.
Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

Welcome back! Let’s start with the most important thing:

American Thanksgiving is in 6 days. It would take a lot for us not to be in Top 3 in Pacific or a Wildcard before next Thursday. This is the third 8 game review. Let’s look back:

First 8 games - 7 and 1 (14 points)

Games 9 to 16 - 3 and 5 (3-3-2) (8 points)

Games 17 to 24 - 4 and 4 (4-3-1) (9 points)

Please note that one 8 game segment is not like the others. .500 hockey will not get us to the playoffs and we’ve been .500 for 2 segments now. Going into last night .524 hockey would get us in the playoffs. So a few 5 and 3 segments would go a long way.

For this 8 game span:

We were the 15th best team in the NHL

Powerplay percentage was 2nd (40%)

Penalty Kill is 4th (90%)

** You would think with such killer specialty teams that we’d have a better record, no?

Goals for was 2nd (31)

Goals against was 6th (27)

Top scorers in last 8 games are

I am not kidding when I say that more than half the guys in this team won’t get 20 points this season and Connor did that in 8 games. The good news is that we had at least 15 guys with 2 points which is a step in the right direction for secondary scoring. Klefbom is currently on fire. Kassian is on fire as well (trade him high! We cannot afford him next season. He deserves a raise and this will be his last UFA window to get a massive payday. I don’t want it to be us giving it to him).

Goalies

One of these is not like the others. Koskinen was good for 7 of our 9 points in this segment.

Secondary scoring continues to be a worry. Basically, if you multiply the current totals by 4 you’ll get an optimistic view of what everyone will finish with. Outside of out Top 2 lines, no one is trending near a 30 point season. We have about a dozen guys heading towards a 15 point season or less. This depresses me. Then I saw this stat:

I think a lot of people misinterpreted this to mean we DO have secondary scoring. That’s actually not what this says. What it says is that we have about 6 guys shooting out the lights and doing all the work. On a funny note, we are the only team with two 40 point scorers. Arizona might not get one all season.

Klefbom leads the league in blocked shots and minutes. Anyone familiar with his injury history? It’s funny that when Russel blocks a shot he’s characterized as a big dummy who can’t carry the puck and spends his whole shift in the D Zone because of it. So why does that not apply to Klefbom who blocks more shots? Why am I not seeing .gifs of Klef on his belly? How do we feel about having 2 of the top 5 shot blockers in the NHL? Nurse is 20th so we have 3 of the Top 20 shot blockers in the league. Thoughts?

Larsson returning gives us a legit Top 4 - do not mess with that! I keep hearing to trade Larsson and Nurse - who does that leave in our Top 4? 2 rookies? Russel? Am I the only one tired of having a strong group of forwards and an unqualified group of D? What happens when Klefbom gets hurt? He played 31 minutes the other night which is the most a Dman has played since Pronger. We finally get a respectable group of D and we immediately want to tear that apart? Can we try one season with a legit Top 4 and bottom 6? The only time we’ve had that in the last 14 years was 2016/17 and we made the playoffs.

Our D pipeline is insane right now - we need to trade some pieces before the trade deadline for good value and not just give away NHL Talent (Marino is averaging over 20 a night and has 7 points which would be 3rd on our team for D). We paid a fortune for Larsson and Russel while giving away Petry, Schultz and Marino for next to nothing. We have a long history of buying high on D and selling really low. I fully expect value back for some of our future stars. We can’t keep them all and we need help at forward.

Next season will see Bear, Jones, Lagesson, Bouchard, Broberg, Samorokov all battling for starting jobs. The first 3 aren’t waiver eligible anymore and I don’t want to lose them for free. I think Bouchard should be on the roster 100% next season. The beauty of these guys? Their combined salaries are about 6 million. I do wonder if some combo of Russel/Larsson/Samorokov/Lagesson could land us something good for the Top 6. I’d love one more legit Top 6 forward in our lineup to help RNH/Neal. Maybe the answer is Bensen/Yamamoto but that doesn’t seem to be in the plans.

I’m not in the trade Nurse camp as he’s, again, top 30 in D scoring and second on the team in minutes. His Bear pairing is legit Top 4 material as well. He wants to be here and has improved every season. He’s also got GRIT. Still, Nurse for a locked in Top 6 forward like Ehler’s or Nylander is starting to make more sense when Larsson comes back. The pending UFA contract is daunting for sure. Russel/Benning is one of the best 3rd pairs in the NHL. I wonder how Persson is feeling right about now? He’s being blocked by Caleb Jones/Larsson this season and then a glut of young guns next year.

For the Nurse detractors. Here are our D stats going back to last season:

Nurse leads in Games played, goals, assists and points. Let’s go back 2 seasons:

Nurse leads all D in Games played, goals, assists and points. It should be noted that Benning is Top 3 in both graphs as well (and leads plus/minus).

Biggest reasons for success?

Drai/Mcd are a little better than last year which means they’re a lot better than about 500 other guys in the NHL.

RNH is still awesome.

Klef is healthy. His only full season we made the playoffs.

Nurse continues to be a Top 30 scoring presence who plays over 20 minutes a night.

Neal is scoring and has easily replaced Lucic’s ‘presence’. I honestly can’t remember the last time I thought ‘send Milan out there’!

Kassian is on a career year (also needs to get paid) and might be a 50 point guy. He’s never had more than 30 and clearly the reasons for this are his skillset, determination and leadership. I can’t think of any other reason that Kassian might be on pace for 50 points while Chiasson is on pace for 10?

Bear is in Calder talk. He should also be in MVP talk for the team. Not because he’s better than Drai/McDavid/Klef but because he has arrived as a Top 4 D and has solidified our D. I think a lot of credit needs to go to Nurse for this pairing being so successful while others feel that Bear is a legit Top 4 and makes Nurse expendable.

Both Goalies are doing great and the Goalie rotation is working for the most part.

Tippet has done a great job. My only quibble is his overuse of stars. He’s playing guys like it is Game 7 of the finals and it’s not even December. I think that is more a roster issue than a coach one though.

Holland has yet to make a major mistake (Marino/Sekera are frustrating but not major mistakes). There is no Chia type disaster.

We didn’t rush anyone to the NHL after the draft. We’ve had a long string of draft a guy in any position and put him in the NHL 4 months after (Yamamoto, Bouchard, Jesse). This, refreshingly, hasn’t happened. Having said that. The only thing I hate more than rushing is over ripening. Time will tell but I think soon I’ll be typing articles about too much AHL. Benson is approaching 100GP and 100 points in the AHL.

Get Hall, sign Nurse, extend Kassian and Bear!

I’m not sure if anyone is checking but we’re still cap poor. We only have 3 limiting contracts leaving for sure: Gagner, Manning and Gryba for about 5.5 million. However, we need to resign Kassian (or trade him), Nurse (or trade him), Smith (or replace him with Starret), Benning (or trade him), Jones, Lagesson and Bear. Also, a lot of people want us to go big whale hunting and give up some of our current players and then pay a lot of money for Taylor Hall. Where is this money coming from? Which assets are we using to get Taylor tomorrow? Could we spend that 8 to 10 million a season (that we don’t have) more wisely (eg. two 5 million forwards who are younger and for less term)?

Our D are currently getting paid 14 million while our forwards are over 46 million. Something has to give. Our D might be the best value in the NHL today.

Parting thoughts:

No one is talking about the ‘boys on the bus’ this season. No one is mentioning that Nicholson is still employed by the Oiler’s. However, I’ve always said that former Oil players have zero value in the NHL as management/coaches. Here are 2 of our best former Oiler’s heading to the Spengler Cup! MacT has already been fired from the KHL as well. The rule should be that former Oiler’s cannot get a job with the Oiler’s in management until they’ve achieved success in another NHL franchise first.

When I started writing for Copper and Blue one of the big arguments was that Talbot would ‘regress back to .918’.

Andrej Sekera is averaging 20 minutes a night in the Top 4 for Dallas. We are paying for him to do this.

I want you to close your eyes and imagine us winning the Cup this season. Connor and Drai lead the playoffs in scoring. Koskinen goes on a run for the ages. Klefbom/Larsson/Nurse/Bear/Jones/Russel/Benning are our 7 D. Kassian and Chiasson provide secondary scoring.

It’d be amazing... now realize that all those guys are Chia signings/trades/draft picks.