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The Good, the Bad and Fire them all to be Safe - Part 2

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NHL: New York Rangers at Edmonton Oilers Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to our ongoing 8 game reviews. A lot has happened between now and last time. We went 5-1-2 in a great stretch! My fear is that we have zero playoff hope and winning streaks like this only get us further down the draft from Hughes to another 10 to 15th overall. Maybe I’m wrong and we go on a run for the ages? This is the 8th segment of the season. We’ve been in the playoffs for 1 out of the 8 segments. Last time, after an awful run, we were 7 points out of the final Wild Card Spot. This time, after an amazing run, we are 6 points out of the final Wild Card Spot.

My own theory on the winning is that Sekera cures all. We are almost at our optimal D pairings. If Sekera can move into Top 4 and bump Russel to third pair then we have a completely competent NHL D. Not elite, not top 10 but definitely not a dumpster fire either. I hope Sekera is back to Top 4 form. He’s looked great so far and I hope he’s playing Top 4 by seasons end and then goes and plays for Slovakia at the World Championships in Bratislava where he’ll be playing 25 minutes a night in all situations. Then wrap him in bubble wrap for the offseason and fly him into Edmonton in mid August and monitor his every step from breakfast to bed time to ensure no more injuries.

Other possible theories would include Koskinen being outstanding, the AHL guys bringing energy and Drai is on a all world tear right now.

Poll

Do you think the Oil will make the playoffs?

This poll is closed

  • 25%
    Yes
    (63 votes)
  • 74%
    No
    (188 votes)
251 votes total Vote Now

Despite playing really well in this segment (only 1 regulation loss in 8 games) we are really no closer now than we were last time. It could also be pointed out that we are nowhere near Vegas for 3rd in our division either.

So we’re currently at 65 points. Let’s say 95 points guarantees you a playoff spot. There are 16 games left on the season (32 points). If we win 15 of our last 16 games we would have 95 points. If we win ALL our games and go 16-0 we would have 97 points.

But Czechboy, you’re negative. 90 points will get you into the playoffs. Perfect! To get 90 points we need to get 25 points in our last 16 games of the season. 25 out of 32 is the equivalent of 12 wins, 1 OT loss and 3 losses to end the season for 90 points. I will cheer to the end but it’d be a hard sell to convince me we’ll only lose 3 more games this season.

This is the first segment of the season not led by Connor! He missed 3 games and .ppg is very similar to Drai but Drai has looked amazing and really carried the show in the games Connor didn’t play. Gagner has more points in this segment than Spooner did in his Oilers ‘career’. That trade is currently a win for us. Kassian has been on fire and we should’ve sold high on him at the deadline because he’ll never get 40 points for the Oilers in a season. People keep mentioning McDavid wanting out and trading Drai. How does everyone think RNH must feel? I feel so bad for that guy.

You might also notice Nurse is consistently Top 5 in these 8 game segments. He continues to be on a 40+ point season. A complete Oiler’s draft success story and a Top 30 scoring Dman that we developed all by ourselves. Do NOT TRADE THIS MAN, he is part of the solution. Klefbom is on pace for 61 games and 24 points for those keeping track. Here is a glimpse of the company that Nurse is keeping this season:

Koskinen played all 8 games and was outstanding! All world outstanding. He is also .911 on the season which is also good. Not great but definitely good. I do worry a LOT as the plan is to have him be a starter next season (he will have not started 60 NHL games and be 31 to start next season) with a very inexperienced backup (Stolarz has played 20 games) and a rookie backing that up (Starrett has played 0 games). Our starting 3 goalies will not have 80 NHL games under their belts combined. I’m assuming the plan is to let Stolarz walk and sign a veteran backup netminder? Wonder if Talbot would take 2 million for 1 season? Elliot? Neuvirth?

We took zero advantage of the trade deadline and will end up cap strapped to finish the season. That was a big mistake. That was our first chance to be proactive, acknowledge the problem and start chipping away at it. We are already several steps behind for next season.

Even better, I’ve read that Nicholson plans on asking the other GM’s at the GM meetings who would be a good candidate for the GM position. Oh boy would I love to hear those conversations! I wonder how many of them suggest Chiarelli, Lowe, Keith Gretzky or Tambellini as the best guy for the job? Why on earth would our competitors help us? For those keeping track, Bob has conducted exactly zero interviews. This is not the man who should be in charge of solving the problem that he very much created.

For next season it looks, right now, like we’re going to be using a lot of younger players with minimal NHL experience. I’m assuming these guys are all on a short list to be on the Oilers next season:

Caleb Jones, Kailer Yamamoto, Jesse Pullijaarvi, our shiney new pick, Evan Bouchard, Ryan McLeod, Colby Cave, Josh Currie, Tyler Bensen, Anthony Stolarz, Shane Starrett and Cooper Marody. That is a dozen guys that are some combination of unproven, young, never played in the NHL or have had minimal impact in the NHL. I am all for new blood, energy and youth. Players have to get NHL experience somehow but is rolling out a dozen guys at once an optimal plan? As awesome as Bakersfield is (and I hope they win the Calder) I can’t help but think only 3 guys from that roster will play more than 200 NHL games (not including Manning and Montoya).

Are we sure Hitch is the guy for this job? He played Jesse about 10 minutes a night. Calls up Currie, gives him about 10 minutes. Put in Kailer - healthy scratch most the time. Malone about 8 minutes. Either Hitch has to seriously change his mentality or we need a much more patient coach who is willing to work with young kids. Or, third option, give Hitch a roster he could work with. He has been sensational with Draisaitl.

Did anyone notice how the Sabres picked up Brandon Montour at the trade deadline? That was a slick piece of business. I only wish we did things like that! They probably won’t make the playoffs but they have Montour for another season. This was the EXACT type of move I was asking for prior to the deadline.

Jesse has been shutdown. The kid spent his year in pressboxes, stapled to benches, 4 games in the AHL, 8 minutes a night, benched after every mistake and in an operating room having both hips repaired. Now he won’t be playing meaningful hockey again till September. It’s March. This is not how you develop 20 year olds. During the broadcast they mentioned this is Jesse’s fault because he doesn’t workout properly. I hate our MSM sometimes.

Here is a quote I read from Keith Gretzky: ‘I look back and the two big things we wanted to do were add character, and we did that with Sam (Gagner), getting him last week.’

So we’re back to character. Very important. Can we qualify it somehow? Eg. what players have the most character? What teams have the most character? Who has more character - Sydney Crosby or Connor McDavid. I keep hearing about character but I don’t understand how you quantify it? We always need more yet it is our most sought after commodity?

For instance, we just added Gagner to get more character. So Gagner has more character than Spooner? How much more character does he have? Is Gagner a 10 on the character scale and Spooner a 0? If Spooner has low ‘character’. Why did we trade for him a few months ago since we value ‘character’ so much? Did Ryan Strome have even less character than Ryan Spooner?

Also, what was Gagner’s ‘character’ score at when we traded him for Teddy Purcell in 2014?

Editor’s note: Please click on that link from 2014 and read the comments. 1. Those are some of my favourite Oiler’s bloggers of all time arguing over the trade. 2. Everything being said is true today. NOTHING HAS CHANGED since before we hired Chia.

My answer is that I think Spooner, Gagner and Strome are probably all overflowing with character. I seriously doubt one lacks character or that another one is bursting with it. We may as well be citing eye colour at this point.

Garbage time

Garbage time is another mistake lousy NHL franchises make. They look at the stats during the part of the season where we are no longer playing meaningful games and use that as a measure for next year. Usually, they tell themselves that the team is fine and it was a ‘poor start’ and ‘bad luck’ and to look for a ‘bounce back’ and proceed to do almost nothing in the offseason because ‘everything is fine’ and ‘we believe in our group’. The time for our players to show us who they were was October to whenever you feel we were no longer a viable playoff contender. I got roasted for saying all this last year. Everyone used the end of season and preseason (the only games more meaningless than garbage time) to determine that we’ll be just fine.

I assume those same people now believe that Colby Cave, Zach Kassian, Sam Gagner and Josh Curry will have 40 point seasons next year? Those same people also were not worried about our gaping holes at RW to start the year based on Rattie, Jesse and Kailer tearing up the preseason! You may recall that in ‘garbage time’ last season, Ty Rattie had 9 points in 14 games and was looking like a Top Line Winger. Aberg had 8 pts in 16 games as well. Well, Ty has 11 points in 43 games so far and has been a routine healthy scratch and sub 10 minute guy. Coincidentally the combo of Jesse/Kailer/Ty have combined for a total of 22 points this season which is what Ryan Strome (and Pontus Aberg) currently have on the season as well. Don’t believe in garbage time or preseason.

Trade Drai?

Drai is Top 5 in scoring and Top 2 in goals. With 17 games left he’s already at a career high for goals and points. The main argument being how much money he makes. I think it best to not look at one players salary but the Top 3 forwards together. Our Top 3 forwards have all gone well and beyond their call of duty. They have, in fact, been exceptional! They make 12, 8 and 6 for a cap hit of 26 million. That is pretty standard for a lot of teams. Pittsburgh’s Crosby, Malkin and Hornqvist make roughly 23 million. Philadelphia’s Voracek, Giroux and JVR make roughly 23 million. Toronto’s Marleau, Nylander and Tavares make 27 million. Boston’s top 3 is a steal at 21 million. The best might be 12 million for Colorado’s Big 3. If you want to argue our Top 3 are overpaid then by how much? 1 million or 2? The LAST issue this team has is our Top 3 forwards and their salaries. Drai and his ‘lazy backcheck’ is about as big a problem as Eberle and his ‘soft points’ or Hemsky and his ‘soft play’. Drai is such a huge part of the solution that the only trade I’d consider for him would be Drai, Manning, Russel and Lucic for Josi, Subban, Ellis and Saros.