FINDING THE SECOND SEASON

I picked the Oilers to make the post-season in yesterday’s Crystal Ball item, and have had a few emails and dm’s asking about my reasoning. I have three main reasons–after the break.

DEPARTMENT OF YOUTH

Just like this baby turtle, the young Oilers–including three #1 overalls–are getting bigger and stronger all the time. Taylor Hall was pushing the river right out of the wrapping, and the other two are coming along as well. Here’s what an impact player looks like, by age:

  • Taylor Hall 5×5/60 at age 19: 1.78
  • Taylor Hall 5×5/60 at age 20: 2.07
  • Taylor Hall 5×5/60 at age 21: 3.15 (6th in entire NHL)

Also, Hall’s shot differential was in the black, one of three forwards (Ebs, Nuge) who could boast a positive CorsiOn from one year ago. I’m betting Hall

  • plays more this season, more 5×5 and 5×4
  • posts a strong offensive season (70, 37-45)

I think that’s reasonable.

BETTER BLUE TO SHOULDER THE LOAD

I try not to confuse the issue with too many advanced stats, in my opinion most of the stuff we talk about can be seen with the human eye. Like Larry King–who didn’t research to prep for interviews–you don’t have to dig deep into advanced stats in order to know that one of these things doesn’t belong:

Ryan Whitney–still out of work–was facing soft parade opps with reasonable help and getting crushed. Of the 210 NHL defensemen who played 20 or more games last season, Whitney ranked #208 overall (ahead of Buffalo’s Mike Weber and Toronto’s Korbinian Holzer) in Corsi On.

Craig MacTavish replaced Whitney (and Fistric) with Andrew Ference, Phil Larsen, Anton Belov, Denis Grebeshkov and possibly Oscar Klefbom.

Seems like an obvious upgrade. Right? No disrespect to Whitney–healthy, he’d be well clear of pretty much everyone on the list. However, there were issues, and those issues impacted the defensive sorties of the Edmonton Oilers in 2012-13.

Reasonable to suggest that the team will improve in this area in 2013-14.

SYSTEMS

This is really good stuff, but you have to be better than Larry King to get it (I’m trying!). Tyler Dellow’s Big Oilers Data series is an ongoing look at what the hell happened last season, a year in which the Oilers shot differential went south in a big way compared to their own past.

Tyler focused on the 2line, specifically Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky, and their very bad time of it. The 12th article is here, I highly recommend reading all of them. The line below relates specifically to what happened with 89-83 after an OFFENSIVE ZONE FACEOFF WIN!

  • The weird thing is that Hemsky and Gagner completely went in the toilet this year following OZ wins. Gagner went from a 65.7% Corsi% to a 55.2% Corsi%. Hemsky fell from 66.7% to 54.5%.

I’ve spoken to Tyler several times on this point, and he’s been narrowing it down to a ‘systems’ glitch that seems to surround a coaching decision about what to do after an offensive zone faceoff win. Krueger’s system(s) seemed to result in possession, but with all three forwards in a very confined area–with very few options.

Fascinating stuff. And if Tyler’s right–this was a Krueger creation–then returning to a more traditional NHL scheme (which seems likely) should provide an offensive uptick for that 2line (which should have an added offensive element in David Perron).

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

Part of the improvement will be the kids growing up, part of it will be improved quality and depth on the blueline, and part of it will be strategy improved.

Playoffs? PLAYOFFS?

Yes. I believe so.

  • DSF

    @LT

    Basing a prediction of the Oilers making the playoffs on only internal improvement flies in the face of reality.

    The Oilers need not only to improve but they have to improve MORE than the teams they will be battling for a playoff spot.

    With that said, let me ask you a series of questions:

    1) Do you think the Oilers will finish ahead of Los Angeles, San Jose, Vancouver or Anaheim in the Pacific Division?

    2) If the answer is no, they will be playing for a wild card spot and will most likely have to finish ahead of Phoenix and also be battling several teams in the Central Division for a playoff spot (I’ve ceded the top two spots to Chicago and STL in the Central Division),

    3) So, I would think the Oilers have to finish ahead of Phoenix, Minnesota, Dallas, Nashville AND Colorado. Is that reasonable?

    4) Have any of those other teams also improved in the off season and by how much?

    I would suggest the Dallas Stars, who finished last season ahead of the Oilers are the most improved team in the WC, They’ve added 3 quality NHL centres in Seguin, Peverley and Horcoff, Valerie Nichushkin on RW and are moving Jamie Benn back to his natural RW position.

    Not to be overlooked is the addition of Sergei Gonchar on D. While he’s older than dirt, he is still a fabulous puck moving defenseman and one of the best PP quarterbacks in the league. (27 points in 45 games last season, the same # of Points as J. Schultz)

    They also have a raft of youngsters who should improve in Radek Faksa, Alex Chiasson, Brett Ritchie, Brendan Dillon and Jordie Benn.

    Do you think the Oilers have improved more than the Stars?

    5) The Colorado Avalanche haven’t been sitting on their hands either hiring Joe Sakic (the real one) and Patrick Roy to run the show.

    They, of course added Nathan MacKinnon to their ridiculous centre depth and will have full seasons from Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan O’Reilly while adding Alex Tanguay for secondary scoring.

    Their D is questionable but they did add Corey Sarich and Tyson Barrie is turning into a beast. If Erik Johnson ever delivers on his promise, they could be much better.

    Have the Oilers improved more than Colorado?

    6) The Jets are hard to get a read on since they played all their games in the east last season but they did have a winning record against every other division.

    They also made a couple of decent acquisitions in Michael Frolik and Devin Setoguchi so should have more firepower especially if Mark Schiefle can make an impact.

    Your take?

    7) Phoenix didn’t do much but the addition of Mike Ribiero, a top 20 scorer last season should certainly give them a boost and, of course those young stud D they have should continue to improve.

    Considering the Coyotes finished 6 points ahead of the Oilers last season and actually scored an identical number of goals despite their D first system, is it reasonable to expect the Oilers to finish ahead of them?

    8) And, finally, one of the most active teams in the past two off seasons has been the Minnesota Wild. While shedding a few vets, they’ve added Jason Pominville, Matt Cooke, Nino Niedereiter, Keith Ballard and Jonathan Blum.

    With last years rookies Brodin, Granlund, Coyle, Zucker likely to take a step forward and the possible addition of Matt Dumba and Jonathan Blum on D, they should be better.

    Given that the Wild finished 10 points ahead of the Oilers last season, is it reasonable to expect them to beat them this season?

    9) So, who they gonna beat?

    • DSF

      I love it how for some reason you think everyone of Minnesotas rookies will take a steo forward. Not only that but your saying Dumba be money in the bank aswell. Get a grip

      • DSF

        Which “rookies” are you referring to?

        Brodin is already a bonafide top pairing D man, Granlund was injured last season, Charlie Coyle had a nice rookie season and I can’rt imagine he will get worse at the age of 21.

        No one suggested Dumba was “money in the bank” as your straw man argument suggests, just that he and Jonathan Blum shore up their D depth quite nicely.

    • OilClog

      1. Yes, the Kings will need to figure out how to score, or they’ll be left battling for 8th. The Ducks are not that good, their quick 1st round exit showed several flaws, they rode a hot start to the season that wouldn’t of held up over 82games. Canucks have so much drama, questions, and doubt that they could just implode. The writing is on the wall for that team. San Jose, again needs to hope their hot start carries them. Another fizzle down the drain for them. ALL OF THESE TEAMS ARE FLAWED! All are beatable. Oilers very well could clear half of them.

      2. Phoenix replaced their 3rd line center with.. They don’t have the forwards to compete. Tippet is a master, but it’s going to be a rough go for them. Doan is not a 1st line anything.

      3. Yes, Oilers have better high end talent then all said teams. Thus, with the right system in place, will crush lower end talents.

      4. Dallas? Seguin.. Would be our #3 center.. actually 4th as Gordon would be the checker role. Horcoff.. really bud? ummm.. Peverly.. Ok. World beaters.

      5. Eakins will tear Roy apart, Colorado has tons of Potential, but if we’re talking potential.. Edmonton’s top 6 include.. Three #1 overalls, Eberle, Perron, Gagner, oh and one Ales Hemsky. If the Oilers D corps also live up to their potential.. Well.. This could be the rivalry for the next 10years and no reason both these teams can’t make room for themselves.

      6. The Jets can get use to the western conference for a season. They’re not going to be a strong force.

      7. Ribiero.. AKA. DSF’s new Wellwood.

      8. Minnesota’s rookies are nothing compared to the young class in Edmonton, any attempt to suggest that the emergence of a different teams young talent will trump Edmonton’s is well, Ridiculous. Cooke.. Eager? Pominville.. Meh.. Ballard.. Blum.. World beaters.

      9. 1. Chicago 2. St.Louis 3. Edmonton πŸ˜‰ 4. San Jose 5. Nashville 6. Colorado 7. LA 8. Minnesota 9. Vancouver 10. Anahiem 11. Phoenix 12. Dallas 13. Winnipeg 14. Calgary

      Good Grief

    • yawto

      You list all the additions but do not list subtractions. They are important as well. Sure they added seguin at the cost of Ericsson. Minnesota lost setaguchi.

      You also bank on big improvements from up an coming prospects for these other teams yet seem to think these players improving will have such an effect on the other teams but give no credit for the improvement of three recent first overalls. I know that Hall is no granlund but expect to see him improve on his prior year. Probably Nuge, Yak city, Schultz and Ebs as well.

      At some point you must admit that this team is like a fine wine that is only going to improve with age. And as each year passes expect the wine to improve significantly.

      So I agree with LT. Yes the oilers are a better team than all the above listed and probably can find a way to get into the mix with Anaheim for the fourth spot in our division.

      • DSF

        You’re missing my point.

        While I agree with LT that the Oilers will improve based on improvement by young players, the question is, have they improved MORE than other teams will?

        You know, those teams that finished ahead of the Oilers in the standings last season.

        4th spot and 5 bucks will get you a coffee at Starbucks.

        The question is who will they finish ahead of to try and grab one of only two wild card spots?

        • yawto

          “While I agree with LT that the Oilers will improve based on improvement by young players, the question is, have they improved MORE than other teams will?”

          I will bet yes… especially in the case of Vancouver, Phoenix and Anaheim, hoping possibly the kings as well, san jose probably not.

          The Oilers will also probably be more improved than everyone in the Central division except for Chicago, St. Louis and Winnipeg. Colorado and Dallas are wild cards and Minnesota is a (bad) joke

          • Quicksilver ballet

            Sorry if I had more time in my day to parade Oilers blog sites I would have replied sooner.

            I will be really specific. Signing Zach Parizeeee and Ryan Suter to the most outrageous contracts ever seen (IMO) as if they are the second coming of … well I dunno who.

            Good luck EVER winning a stanley cup with those contracts. Seriously. Never ever ever ever ever gonna happen. hahahahahahahahahahahah

    • Czar

      Ducks lost Bobby Ryan and Sourays out for up to 6 months, Oilers finish ahead of the not so mighty ducks. Dumba, a kid I really like, is a couple years away. Did you see him play last year?

      Sorry LT, your reply wasn’t up when I posted mine.

  • justDOit

    I would be happy with the Oilers just playing a FULL first season, instead of taking 15 – 23 games off sometime after the Christmas break. But I guess that would then probably lead to the second season…

  • Off the wall prediction:

    Hall-Nuge-Yak
    Perron-Ebs-Hemsky
    Jones_Gags-Joensuu
    Eager-Gordon-Smytty

    Ebs finds a home at the center position-not Hall-deapite his small stature and suddenly the biggest problem for the oilers forward corps is depth at the AHL level, and not at center for the big club.

  • yawto

    Like a kid on Christmas Eve I to believe my gift I wanted will be under the tree and we shall see our fist post season game featuring all the kids this spring. Hooray.