Craig MacTavish accomplished much this summer, but the center position hasn’t been addressed beyond an old phenom being replaced by a new one. I suspect the team may have overplayed their position, believing something had to shake loose and showing too much patience. That said, they do have options in the middle and some of these men are going to have long, productive NHL careers.
Unless MacT has a miracle in mind, the Oilers on paper are very weak at center compared to the rest of the Western Conference.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had an outstanding rookie season, spent much of year two less than 100%, and regained some of his magic in year three. Rookie coach Dallas Eakins ran him beyond-ragged at times during the year (Nuge played 28:12 in his first game in the lineup, 2013-14 season). One hopes baby Nuge is getting his rest and taking vitamins, he’s going to need them come the November chill. A lot of RNH’s offensive value comes via the pass (and on the power play), and that will be reflected in our center estimates.
LEON! (with Arco to help)
We could pretend it isn’t going to happen, but why? Draisaitl’s NHL equivalencies suggest he would score 40 points in 82 games. The Oilers played Sam Gagner over 1200 minutes as a rookie, no reason to believe (at this point) the big German won’t get a healthy TOI and with good NHL wingers. They call it a push, and one suspects we’re going to see a big one this winter.
Boyd Gordon (along with Matt Hendricks) look like they’ll form a tough minutes line. There was some talk of this being the fourth line, but one suspects it will end up playing the third-most minutes (and in fact being the ‘3line’ for Edmonton). Gordon delivered more than expected offensively this past season, it would be unwise to expect a repeat.
- Mark Arcobello 1.82
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 1.56
- Boyd Gordon 0.93
Mark Arcobello had a terrific season when in the lineup, I think he’ll share 2line duties with Draisaitl and then share 4line work with Lander when he’s batting down in the order. Nuge’s 5×5 number needs to be better (say 1.80) if we’re going to consider him an impact offensive player—his power-play ability will take care of the rest.
HOW MANY EVEN-STRENGTH GOALS?
The Nuge had 13 a year ago, suspect we can crank it up a couple, that’s a decent bet for a No. 1 overall who is completely healthy. I’ll give the Arco/Draisaitl 2line combination eight, that’s a little more than double Arcobello’s total in half a season during 2013-14. Not exactly scientific, but these aren’t first-shot scorers, they’re playmakers. Gordon scored six even-strength goals a year ago, I’m going to guess five this season and we’ll throw two Lander’s way for fun.
30 even-strength goals for the centers. Fair? This is an unproven group and passers all, and the total for C at EVs last season was 34. I’m going to suggest 30, because we know there are going to be long nights and growing pains for lines 2 through 4.
HOW MANY POWER-PLAY GOALS?
Again we’re dealing with playmakers, the Nuge is a crazy passer and in his element with the man advantage. Draisaitl should get cherry minutes at 5×4 and 5×3 on the 2pp, and that could be good or bad (rookies don’t usually get a ton of PP minutes).
Nuge scored 6 last year, let’s pump him up to 9. If three more of those wide high lazers find the range? I don’t think that’s a crazy bet. Arco and Gordon had one each a year ago, let’s keep them there. How many for the German? 4? Let’s say 4 with the man advantage and we’re probably aiming too high but maybe we were tough at evens.
15. That’s 15 on special teams. Fair?
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Sometimes things look out of whack because they are, and the Oilers really should straighten up and fly right with center for 2014-15. But, like that lovable uncle who looks fine except for the comb over and the Keep on Truckin’ belt buckle, it appears the town team can’t help themselves.
A season ago, Oiler forwards scored 166 and I have them at 175 this time, mostly due to the wingers. If they could ONLY get an actual NHL center.