The choice of Nikita Nikitin (by Craig MacTavish) as the showcase addition to the 2014-15 Oilers defense was curious to the extreme. The Columbus Blue Jackets didn’t use him in a feature role—in fact, they didn’t use him full stop at times—but Oilers’ brass went ahead and traded for him THEN delivered an offer he couldn’t refuse in the form of a two-year, $9 million contract.
It’s the kind of transaction that should be followed by “you better be right” in the highest office in Oilerland. The results this season were poor and predictable, and the question that follows is “where do they go from here?”
The first two seasons above are with Columbus, this season’s totals are Nikitin as an Oilers defender. It’s interesting to see just how much separation there is between the two teams in terms of handling this player:
- Columbus had him third pairing and DEMOTED him in the following season. In 2013-14 they also lopped off much of his power-play time as well.
- Edmonton gave him the toughest opposition (via behindthenet.ca) and put him back on the power play.
What does this tell us? Nikitin’s possession numbers are reasonable considering the quality of competition and his power-play offense is decent (ranks No. 85 among NHL D playing 50 minutes or more, via Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com) but he didn’t play enough to make a difference.
We know the Oilers used Nikitin in a very different way than the Blue Jackets, but did they use him more?
- 2012-13: 21:11 TOTAL (16:58EV; 1:52PP; 2:21PK)
- 2013-14: 17:60 TOTAL (15:33EV; 0:48PP; 0:44PK)
- 2014-15: 19:38 TOTAL (16:09EV; 1:43PP; 1:44PK)
This looks to me as though the Jackets liked him as a complete defensive option in 2012-13, gave up on him the following year, and the Oilers went back (Scott Howson anyone?) to viewing him as an all-situations back liner.
Craig MacTavish via a Derek Van Diest Edmonton Sun article in March: “Nikita was playing better, he started off slowly, I don’t think he was
in the best shape that he could have been, we have to get that rectified
next year. But he was getting into shape
and he’s a top-four NHL defenceman.” Source
In the same article (a worthwhile read) DVD also quotes the player saying he was in shape, but if that’s true the Oilers are royally cooked on this player. Nikitin has another year to go (source: NHLNumbers) in his contract.
I think the Edmonton Oilers will put him through ‘Rocky’ style training this summer and place him in a prominent role this fall. They may look at his possession numbers, envision a more able and fit player, and roll the dice on him next year.
I think that’s a mistake. Nikitin had a poor season for Columbus and then he had a poor year in Edmonton this season. He could recover, but what then? He isn’t a long-term solution wasn’t meant to be the day he signed. Nikitin’s job was to be effective THIS year and he failed to do it due to injury and (allegedly) fitness.
Bring him back? No sir.
Cut bait on the Russian and bring in someone who had a good season in his last NHL city. Scott Howson didn’t do his GM any favors (if this was some inside information) and the Oilers should be wary of Blue Jackets’ defensemen who are available in trade based on Nikitin’s lack of success and Howson’s implied recommendation of this player.