The Skill Positions

The Edmonton Oilers future is fast, furious and spectacular. At this point it’s not a matter of "if" they’ll contend for a spot near the top of the conference, but "when" they’ll put it together. The gathering of jacks and kings has given Edmonton a tremendous amount of skill. Do they have enough high end talent? Do they have enough room for another elite winger?

The answer is "yes." The Edmonton Oilers have enough room to add another elite level winger like Nail Yakupov. Even though Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle have grand careers ahead of them and are in their entry level deals, even though Ales Hemsky is an outstanding talent–there’s still room.

THE GIFTED KIDS ON THE POWERPLAY

The skilled men on an NHL team get the gravy minutes–powerplay time on ice. Last season, the PP TOI went like this for the Oilers:

  1. Taylor Hall 3:03
  2. Jordan Eberle 3:00
  3. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 3:00
  4. Shawn Horcoff 2:52
  5. Ryan Smyth 2:28
  6. Sam Gagner 2:27
  7. Alex Hemsky 2:08

I’d argue that Hemsky should have been playing much bigger minutes but coach Renney had his wizard in the Nuge so it’s hard to argue with success. Still, if the procurement department adds Nail Yakupov and the new coach wants to use the rookie on the 2nd PP there’s plenty of talent beyond the three amigo’s at the top of this list. Gagner, Hemmer and Yakupov or Smyth sounds pretty damn good.

I sincerely believe that Shawn Horcoff’s time as a PP option should be over, and although EDM got a lot out of Eric Belanger’s 1 minute a night it is perhaps best to leave him off the list as well. The big offensive stars on the powerplay were Hall (13 goals), Eberle (10 goals) and the Nuge (20 assists). I wonder if the new coach might use RNH more on the PP? Mats Sundin used to play over 4.5 minutes a game on the PP and with these whiz kids stomping the guts out of the opposition maybe extra minutes 5×4 as they mature will produce more offense.

Based on the minutes given to Horcoff and Ryan Smyth noted above, one would think there will be a way for Yakupov to earn his way onto the PP sometime in 2012-13. Rookies are rarely PP monsters like the Nuge was this season, but we’re dealing in truly gifted teenagers here so a strong rookie season 5×4 from Yakupov is possible.

EVEN STRENGTH AND ZONE STARTS

Edmonton’s weakness last season had a lot to do with protecting the gifted youths Nuge, Eberle and Hall. Punishing zone starts for Shawn Horcoff, Eric Belanger and Ryan Jones meant the kids got a major zone start push. Coach Renney also tried to protect the trio qual comp although all three ended up playing the 2nd toughest minutes overall (all information via behind the net).

All of the tough zone starts for Horcoff ruined his offense, but the club placed a large number of players in the NHL’s top 180 forwards in 5×5/60 minutes. That’s the "line in the sand" for top 6 forwards (again courtesy behind the net). An average NHL team would have 6 forwards in the group–3 in the top 90 and 3 listed 91-180.

  • 2nd overall Jordan Eberle 3.08/60minutes
  • 69th overall Taylor Hall: 2.07/60 minutes
  • 88th overall Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: 1.98/60 minutes
  • 91st overall Sam Gagner: 1.96/60 minutes
  • 95th overall Ryan Smyth: 1.93/60 minutes
  • 175th overall Ales Hemsky: 1.57/60 minutes
  • 193rd overall Ryan Jones: 1.46/60 minutes
  • 193rd overall Ben Eager: 1.46/60 minutes

Oilers had 5 men in the top 100 scorers 5×5/60 this past season, which obviously is above average (average would be 3.33). The offense fell off badly after the men listed here, and Horcoff’s 1.04/60 ranks 280th among NHL forwards playing more than 50 games. Horcoff did play the toughs and defensive zone starts, so his overall numbers are badly skewed (although CorsiRel suggests he was getting the job done).

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

There’s room for Nail Yakupov on the 2nd PP unit and an NHL coach can find him plenty of offensive zone starts and the soft parade opposition. If the new Oilers coach does that, some of the other youngsters are going to be forced into roles they haven’t seen before.

A player like Jordan Eberle is probably vulnerable to a major downturn in fortunes based on Yakupov’s presence on the roster. You cannot protect this many kids and have them develop in a straight line. Surely the Oilers have proven that much over these last seasons.

  • jonrmcleod

    Stall is a good player. There is no debate there. However, he wouldn’t go second overall in a 2006 re-draft, let alone first overall in 2012. Not a trade good GMs make. So it actually might happen…

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    CRYSTAL GAZING : Columbus sends Nash ,etc. to Leafs for their first round pick ,giving Jackets 2nd and fifth pick . Columbus then trades away fifth pick with a deal with Oilers , giving us either first or second pick plus fifth pick overall . That would give us plenty of options at fifth position . What might we acquire at fifth position worth entering a three way deal ? Would a three way deal with Montreal be as lucrative ?

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    The reason that Horcoff had all the tough assignments, is that he is supposed to be our best top six player with experience. He is fairly solid defensively……but offensively speaking he could not hit a barn at one yard.

    Hemsky is fairly good offensively but rarely played a team game. He only passes the puck when he has run out of options and his continous end to end rushes almost always resulted in him losing the puck at the blue line.

    These two players need to be dealt somehow so we can acquire some complimentary talent for the fab-four.

  • Gerald R. Ford

    So nice that “how are we going to juggle our many elite wingers?” is now a legitimate question.

    Props for a ♥ Susanna Hoffs ♥ picture on a Manic Monday, Lowetide.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    The more high top talent the better ! You can always trade away an abundance of talent more readily/ easily for better role players down the line , if cap becomes an issue . The higher the asset the better the return .

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Hall and Eberle are 3rd year pro’s now, Kane and Toews won a cup in their 3rd year, no more sheltering for them.

    Time to face the fire.

  • Belanger out, Kelly or Bolland in.
    Nuge, Gagner, Horcoff, Kelly/Bolland down the middle. Top 6 wingers = Ebs, Hall, Hemsky, Yak, MPS, Smyth. It may not be a team that can grind through 4 playoff series, but it sure looks exciting from the upper bowl. Especially if we can bring in a young, exciting blue liner or two. I have been around long enough to appreciate barn-burner hockey yet understand that this won’t win championships in today’s game. But wouldn’t we all be happy seeing these kids buzz around for a few years putting on ‘skill’ clinics? I honestly believe these kids would rather play hard and fast and miss the playoffs by 5 points than play defensive hockey and make the playoffs by 5 points. Let’s worry about the defence/cup in 3 years.

  • Reality Check to the head

    While I agree that Horcoff and Belanger PP minutes will be cut if we acquire YAK, I cannot help but wonder who will win faceoffs during this time.

    I think the improvement in the PP, was the addition of RNH and Horcoff and Belanger winning faceoffs. That is an opinion based on casual observation and not stats.

  • I’d argue Ales Hemsky would have been playing more minutes on the PP if he had played better. Those puck-losing dangles at the opponents’ blueline probably got pretty hard for Renney to take after a while.

    • DieHard

      You seem to have quite the closed mind. You get on a track and can’t get off. If you read LT’s posts and comments you’ll see he thinks the Oil will take Yakupov. If a trade could happen (or if the Oilers did not win the lottery), Murray would be who he thinks the Oilers take.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      We have a good family friend with whom its almost impossible to have a discussion where we turn the coin around, look at both sides carefully and discuss pros and cons. If I start out presenting pros and then switch to presenting cons its actually very frustrating to her, and thinks I’m being a jerk. Seriously. There’s just no way to separate the argument from the arguer for her (she’s still a great friend though!).

      Perhaps you’ve fallen into this line of thinking?

      If I understand the situation, Lowetide thinks they should draft Yakupov, thinks they very well might draft Murray, and is presenting the argument here that there’s plenty of room at the inn for drafting Yakupov, so that’s not an excuse to pass on him.

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    Eberle has been a pleasant surprise ever since we drafted him, I wouldnt be surprised if he was the least affected of the young kids overall. Although I am slightly concerned on what they all might think of drafting Yakupov, an uber-confident ultra-cocky hot-shot.