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That’s a wrap...

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Edmonton Oilers v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

It’s over. We lost 3-1 to the Blackhawks who were the lowest seed. For most the series I thought the Hawk’s looked better and deserved to win. The fact they haven’t won a game since stings a lot. It shows that we weren’t even close to being a cup contender.

I was on a 6 week pandamcation for most of this. I didn’t think it’d happen and I thought it’d fail if it did. So far I’m 0 for 2. I rarely had access to a TV but could occasionally find wifi. I ended up watching 2 of the games in Jasper National Park and boy was that a cool experience!

Goaltending

I have a theory on goalies (which I admittedly don’t understand) that goes something like this. There are 4 types of them in the NHL

A goalies - consistently good year after year. Win Cups, have big contracts usually and are feared around the league. Hasek, Roy, Lundqvist, Rinne and Price come to mind (in their primes)

B goalies - exceptional goalies who occasionally go in bad patches but generally make a career of it and are very good. Mike Smith in his prime is a great example of one. Devan Dubnyk after leaving us. Great goalie but not a hall of famer. Tomas Vokoun would be another. Freddy Anderson also comes to mind.

C goalies - exceptional backups, potential 1B goalies, rookie goalies that are unproven but on a heck of a run in rookie year, sheltered goalies with great stats and veterans who used to be A or B but are on their final legs. Cam Talbot comes to mind, so does Petr Mrazek, David Rittich and Pavel Francouz. Igor Shesterkin would also fit in this category.

D goalies - past their prime, will never be a full time NHLer, backups who got called up because of multiple injuries and too young to tell. Nikolai Khabibulin as an Oiler goalie is a great example. Dan Vladar is currently backing up Jaroslav Halak in Boston and has never played an NHL game.

Bituman wrote a great piece about who we should start. I didn’t have time to respond but I will respond here. It doesn’t matter in the least. I prefered Koskinen but we’re talking C and D goalies. Neither of these guys will win us a cup in 2020. Smith is a D goalie who really wouldn’t make many NHL teams today. Koskinen is a C goalie who could be an excellent backup or perhaps a decent 1B. When your options are C and D goalies you probably won’t go far in the playoffs.

Defence

Our D is generally fine. They aren’t Top 10 and we have way too many bottom pairers but it’s a good group. They flopped dramatically in the playoffs but I don’t think it is a bad group. Our Top 4 has been the same guys for way too long but the pipe is great and time to clear the way for them.

Forwards

When you pay a fortune for 3 forwards (26 million for RNH, Drai and McD) you will never have a fully balanced team in a Cap World. I’m totally okay with that! Get good plugs to fill in around our superstars and we’ll be just fine. Connor gives us a cap advantage because he doesn’t need a pair of 6 million dollar wingers to generate points.

Tippet and Holland

I thought Tippet was exceptional in the regular season. Just phenomenal. The playoffs turned him into a goat though. I can forgive starting Smith given I didn’t think it mattered but not putting together Drain/RNH/Yam was such a bad mistake. Despite Holland’s mistakes, I think he’s doing a great job and am generally confident in him after seeing a year of him.

I know Drai got the trophies but he is still our second best player. Imagine having an Art Ross trophy winner AND Connor McDavid going into next season? It’s insane.

What’s Next?

I’ve read a lot about blowing it up, signing some premiere UFA’s and firing people. I couldn’t disagree more. This team is so close to being an elite team in my opinion. I genuinely feel we could be the next Canadian team to win a Cup if a few things go right.

So what would I do? Very little but here we go. Please note this isn’t fantasy booking, I am keeping the cap in mind when doing this, I’m actually going cheaper in all areas but one. I want some cap space and think I know where to get it and how to use it:

Management

Keep Holland and Tippet. They’ve definitely earned a second chance.

Goaltending

We can’t trade Koskinen. We don’t have a lot of money. There is no one in our pipe that can help us next year. So I say keep Koskinen and trade for Georgiev and go 1A and 1B. I’m positive Georgiev will be a solid NHL starter and eventually take Koskinen’s job.

Defence

You know who had a good playin? Kris Russel! He was excellent. I can’t think of a better time to trade him. One of the 15 teams we are allowed to trade him to will want him. His value might never be higher! He will only cost a new GM 1.5 million next season. I have nothing against him and think he has earned his contract but it’s time to free up space (both cap space and space for a younger Dman).

Bouchard absolutely must be in the starting lineup next season. Give me Larsson, Nurse, Klefbom and Bear again. Let Jones, Lagesson, Benning, Samorukov and Broberg battle for the other spot. Once some of the young guys are getting good, start looking for a trade partner for 1 of Nurse/Klef/Larsson to make room for the next gen and help the forward group.

I have another long standing theory that looking good in the bottom pair and being even effective in the Top 4 are two different skillsets. We have way too many lifelong bottom pair D. Need to focus on retooling that Top 4.

Forwards

This will shock you but I think we need to trade Kassian. Let me be clear why and do a Q and A for you with a Kassian fan (KF):

KF - Kassian will be awesome in the playoffs. He’s a proven performer in the playoffs!

CB - Kassian has 3 points in 25 career playoff games. He’s never been past the 2nd round. He has been to the playoffs 4 times in his career and got 0 points in 3 of those series. He was awful in the playoffs this year.

KF - Kassian brings GRIT!

CB - Name one Blackhawk who appeared scared of Kassian and this, somehow, resulting in us winning a game?

KF - Kassian can Penalty Kill!

CB - Kassian didn’t play one shift on the PK this year. He was part of last year’s PK unit which was historically awful. He won’t be on the PK next year either.

KF - Kassian is super fast!

CB - faster than Nygard or McLeod? McD? I’d say he is a top 10 skater on the Oil. I agree he’s faster than James Neal.

KF - he has character! He’s ‘good in the room’. He’s a 30 to 50 point forward.

CB - Kassian is a great guy who should win the Masterton. His story is amazing and lots of former NHL players in his spot ended up dead, poor or homeless. His rise up is a movie. I’m positive everyone loves him in the room and that he wants to be here. He’s got more than 30 points once in his 10 year career. He’s a 25 point guy based on a decade of evidence. In 2020, Kassian got 7 points in 24 games (20 regular season and 4 playoff games which yielded 0).

Kassian will be our 5th highest paid forward next season. His salary could pay for Bensen, McLeod and Jesse P combined.

I would try and resign Ennis, AA and Sheahan for bargain contracts.

McD, Drai and RNH are as good a trio to build around as anyone has. They are worth every penny. I loved our bottom 6 this season and feel it will be strong next season.

I’d like to see a guy like McLeod crack the team and be in the bottom 6 next season.

Yamamoto looks like a keeper and should get a full season.

I’d like to see Jesse back for us next season. He’ll never be elite but he does have 50 points written all over him! Put him in Top 6 and give him a real chance. He’ll also be in game shape since he’s starting in Finland soon. I’d also like to see Benson get a bigger shot. Maybe Lavoie will make some gains. Imagine a lineup littered with picks made by the Oiler’s on ELC’s?

It’d be nice if we could unload James Neal as well. He was good in the playin, maybe he has some value elsewhere?

I would like to see us go after Pavel Zacha as our 3C. I can’t imagine his value is high but he is the perfect 3C for us.

I wasn’t upset we didn’t get Laf. I’d love to have him but I feel like 90% of our puzzle is already in place. Most concerning is the goaltending which I don’t think can be fixed right now. This might be the only time I say this but I’d be fine with drafting Askarov who might be a good NHL goalie in 3 seasons.

All my moves are mostly internal and geared at freeing up cap space. I’d like to see us go after one high end winger who is a UFA. We are low on draft picks to so I’d be happy with picks for Kassian and Russel.

Summary:

Keep almost everyone. We are young and good. Clear out Russel and Kassian for picks. Trade for Georgiev. Do not resign Smith. Bouchard is in Top 6 next time Oil play. Draft the Goalie in round 1. Give Bensen and McLeod a chance. Use the freed up space to get 1 higher end winger in the Top 6. Bring back Jesse. If Jones/Bouchard are taking ‘next steps’ time to trade one of our existing Top 4 D for a forward or goalie. Fire Nicholson because I don’t know what the hell he does.