The Edmonton Oilers have three players making significant dollars heading into their walk year in 2015-16. Ben Scrivens, Nikitia Nikitin and Teddy Purcell all enter the year with something to prove and history tells us one of them is bound to recover, at least a little. Question: Who would you bet on to spike?


The best way I know to look at goalie performance is even-strength save percentage. It isn’t perfect (not all shots and scoring chances are created equal) but it gives us a nice look at the individual isolated:

  • 2011-12: (TOR) 12GP, .910 (Gustavsson was the starter, .904)
  • 2012-13: (TOR) 20GP, .920 (Reimer was the starter, .924)
  • 2013-14 (LAK)  19GP, .937 (Quick was the starter, .929)
  • 2013-14 (EDM) 21GP, .922 (Dubnyk was the starter, .897)
  • 2014-15 (EDM) 57GP, .897 (Fasth was the backup, .896)

Scrivens was better than the starter (or backup) in four of these runs, and of course the only ghastly number is from 2014-15. Ben Scrivens is 28, in what should be the prime of his career and has no known injury or malady that would impact his future. History tells us goalies who have wonky seasons often regress to the mean, implying an improved save percentage is likely. I’d guess we can count on .910 or better from Scrivens in 2015-16.


Edmonton spent a lot of money on Nikitin, who was one of two major bets to shore up the blue line in the summer of 2014. Although he was injured for much of the season, the underlying numbers show some positives.

nikitin vollman

The Vollman Sledgehammer shows Nikitin in the “two way” sector with zone-starts that put him in the ‘average’ range compared to other Oilers defenders. They are fairly easy minutes for a veteran (second pairing) but his possession numbers were close to 50%—this isn’t a bad player although there’s no way Nikitin was worth $4.5M last season (even when healthy).

nikitin numbers 11

There isn’t a lot of offense there (although his points-per-60 at 5×4—2.54—is a good number) and the three-year glance suggests Nikitin is what he is. If he stayed healthy and posted (say) 20 points, would that make him worth $4.5 million? Unlike Ben Scrivens, none of the numbers above suggest he was a quality NHL defenseman in his final two seasons in Columbus.


Teddy Purcell is a veteran winger whose skills fit nicely with a young, emerging team like Edmonton. He can offer cover in case Nail Yakupov struggles as a 2line RW this winter and could play either wing on a third line (and that could become important depending on who makes the team). Purcell performed well on the power play last season but his even-strength offense has been eroding for some time.

purcell fancy

Purcell’s training work is important for his professional survival. If he has a strong year with Edmonton in 2015-16, the club might re-sign him or there may be multiple offers elsewhere.


I’m leaning toward Scrivens as the most likely to recover, although Purcell’s training may mean marked improvement and he’s likely to get a major chance (no backup role there). Niki Nikitin battled injuries and ineffectiveness last season but if he can recover and post a strong year, the accolades and opportunities will be enormous, as they always are for effective defensemen.

Tough choice. Thoughts?

  • Fatbob24

    Well! I’d like to see NN bounce back and keep Nurse in the AHL, but, I’ve also been an Oilers fan for too long to think that’s really going to happen. Here’s to Scrivens!

  • BobbyCanuck

    I think they will all have bounce back seasons. Do not underestmate the power of the ‘contract year’, + coupled with new coach that actually knows how to coach

    Look how well A. Semin played in his contact year (traded from Washington to Carolina). Played lights out, played so well they gave him a 7yr/$7M contract,then he got bought out.

    Lets hope these 3 play so well, we can get a decent return for them sometime before he trade deadline,or resign them…that would be up to Chi

  • BobbyCanuck

    Best year ever for these three. Hope. Pray. Be optimistic.

    What a beautiful, sunny McDavid day!! He will help all of the Oilers, including these three, contribute to our successful hockey club.

    Stranger things have happened and it is Once in a Blue Moon today.

  • CMG30

    I think Scrivens bounces back the most. He’s back in the familiar ‘backup’ role with competition all around him and something to prove. Last year was an aberration and when he gets better this year we can all argue about what made the difference: the goalie started stopping pucks or the defense got that much better…

    If Nikitin bounces back, Chirelli is going to look like a genius for not buying him out. He can then flip him at the deadline to a contender with injury problems and clear the way for the next generation of players pushing up from Bakersfield.

  • CMG30

    I’ll say Purcell. I don’t like the player, but it sounds like he wants another contract and will be playing with good line mates wether he’s on the second or third line. He’ll probably have a decent year, I just hope we don’t resign him. He’s too soft for his role.

  • CMG30

    I didn’t know Purcell needed to ‘recover’. He’s a little overpaid, but he’s a guy just like David Jones. 34 points in 82 games for 4.5 mill is an overpaymnet, but Purcell is not being used on the top line, and once Yak found his game with Roy, Purcell also wasn’t being used on the second line, so really what were the expectations for this guy given his usage?

    He’s a 3rd line RW who can play up the line if injuries occur. Ideally, that guy costs 2 mill, but just because he’s over paid doesn’t mean he didn’t deliver on his job.

    • camdog

      That’s a good assessment on Purcell. Where he didn’t deliver was in Tampa Bay where he was expected to be a top 6 forward, when he signed that contract. In Edmonton he was brought in to be a third line winger, in a move to get out of the Gagner contract.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Ben reminds me a little of Dwayne Roloson. Spent far too much time playing behind the starter…..not a lot of miles on his odometer for a guy his age.

    Now if only the Oilers could find a Chris Pronger type to help Ben have a shot at similar success. The support types are all in place. Just need that leader back there now.

    If only the always financially concerned Predator ownership group would cut Shea Weber loose.

    • Alberta Bound Edmonton

      I think Ben is a proud guy. He bounces back with a 920 in a backup role. Weber would be perfect but cannot see Nashville parting ways…yet. At the monument it would take Drai or nuge (or both) to get him.

      I would have loved to see Chai to have targeted Seth Jones at the draft. What would be had to add besides the 16th and 33rd? Yak?

    • monsterbater

      Shea Weber is not the type of player the Oilers need right now. He doesn’t drive position enough, he’s on the wrong side of 30 and that remaining contract…. woof.

      He’s still a really good defenseman and would definitely be the Oilers best D-man…. but the Oilers need to target the Douglas Hamilton’s of the world, not the Shea Webers

    • Oiler Fan 16

      According to the news reports re: Weber’s signing, he was given a heavily front-loaded contract in the hopes that the Press would not match. Something like $50 million over the first two years in a $110 million dollar contract. Since they’ve already paid him that, I can’t see why they would even look at trading him.

      • BasementDweller

        The team that most likely is targeting Weber would be the coyotes so they can get closer to the floor without spending actual money. I could see Nashville doing a deal like that for OEL but don’t think Phoenix would. But That would be a bad idea.

        • Jaxon

          He has one more year at a $1m base salary and $13m bonus, after which his salary starts to drop, and in three seasons, his actual salary becomes lower than his cap hit. At some point a team may be interested in trading for him because his actual salary will be lower than his cap hit. But unless it’s OEL or one of their quality forward prospects, then it doesn’t really make sense after they’ve invested so much to keep him.

  • freelancer

    Really I think it’s impossible for all of them not to improve. Scrivens will be in the backup role and should do better with fewer games. A healthy Nikitin could actually help this team out greatly. He will never live up to the contract. But if he can perform well on a bottom pairing and provide some offense on a secondary powerplay unit people might look at him slightly more favourably.

    As for Purcell I don’t necessarily think he needs to bounce back. Ignoring for one second the fact that he’s softer than butter that’s been nuked in the microwave, he is a veteran complimentary player who can rack up points with better players. If he does see long term play with McDavid a 50 point season isn’t out of the question for him.

  • camdog

    The thing is, Ben’s numbers were so bad last year, that even a relatively bad year could qualify as a bounce back. If he puts up something like a .915 at evens or a .905 overall, that’s still a marked improvement over last year that would correlate to a few extra games won.

    Those numbers still aren’t very good (certainly not starter or 1B territory) but I wouldn’t be too upset about them, assuming Talbot is the real deal.

  • freelancer

    Last year we had a good indication of how good or bad Scrivens might be . Like Dubnyk the year before he was not very good behind a porous defence . His stats should rise marginally this year , due to a better defence with Nurse and Reinhart on board with Sekara . Nikitin already on downside of career and doubt he will do much better . Purcell also appears to be on downside and unlikely to be any better . Horcoff went same route as Purcell is going this year in his last year here , but he did not fair any better . So I rather doubt Purcell will either . Yakupov and Purcell were a big downfall for club last year with a very poor plus minus rating of -34 and -35 (two worst on our club by a lot) with almost half their goals via the power play . Regular line play they both were both subpar . We have a RW problem on our club with those two . However , at least Yak is young and improving where Purcell is likely not going to .

  • Concur

    I believe that all three have a strong chance to recover this year, the bigger question is who will improve the most.

    I agree of assessment of Nikitin that he will probably follow his trend of the previous three years. If there is improvement it would be minimal, but still welcome.

    I like to hear the news of Purcell joining Hall and McDavid for off season training. If all goes well this could spike his recovery. Also duly noted that Purcell was not a drain on the team, yes he can improve but he also bring something tangible to the table.

    Scrivens without a doubt will have a bounce back year. I see a lot going back to normal for him and the biggest thing would be how the team plays around him. This will improve with the changing in the defense as well as new coaches. If all goes well Scrivens could be the starter leaving Talbot to continue as a back up. Or the could be splitting duties making it easier on everyone.

  • Concur

    The contract for Scrivens is not that significant. If Scrivens has a bounce back year the Oilers could resign him to similar dollars and not be over paying. Also if Talbot has a good year they could still resign both to less than 6 million between them. That is a nice number for two goalies.

    Even if Nikitin or Purcell have bounce back seasons, they will not be back with the Oilers (or a VERY small chance) because they would have to take a salary rollback. It is easier for them to do that with another team. Best bet for the Oilers is pump and dump before the trade deadline.

  • billythebullet

    Scrivens all the way. He has the most to prove and goalie jobs are not plentiful in the NHL. Purcell is what he is. I think he puts up similar numbers and likely gets traded at the deadline to a playoff team looking for experienced scoring depth. Niki has been regressing the last three seasons. Even if he does have a 20 point season I suspect he is an easy contract to replace with a Reinhart or Nurse full time.

    An honorary mention to Jultz as well. He might have even more to prove then Scrivens. I’m not a fan of what he did last season but I’m hoping he can be the player his contracts suggest he is.

  • BasementDweller

    I’m really impressed that Taylor Hall and Teddy Purcell (as well as Connor McDavid) are in hockey school this off season improving their game, It shows commitment and determination. I like that. I feel Scrivens and Purcell will have a really good season, and Nikitin will have a better one than last, but still not as good as is expected. Hopefully he will be traded before the season is too old. Possibly the key word here is competition and with players now knowing that they are not slam dunk for a roster spot will make things more interesting for all of us. We need Purcell as a veteran mentor for the kids and his signing up to improve his game shows what a committed guy he is. Perhaps they should invite Schultz to join them or recommend a defensive hockey course happening somewhere this off season.

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    you know who i’d like to see bounce, bounce on outta here that is – thats right the big old sore thumb way way way over to the low low right corner.

    wow that graph tells a story doesn’t it, did no one show PC this I mean how could he miss it, its one thing to shelter rookie centre in the western conference but a Norris potential player is a whole other thing

    call me crazy but I’d love to see Vollman Sledgehammer over lapped with just the other 2014 Norris candidates, just for giggles.

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    I think Purcell will impress after training with Roberts. 40-50pts isn’t a stretch in my opinion. I’ve said it before that players breakout after training with Roberts. He molds you into a hockey player.

    It’s not a stretch to think that they all rebound a little.

  • Jaxon

    Gladly, who I think will rebound and who I want to rebound are the same. Scrivens.

    Cheering like hell for Scrivens to make it into a solid 1A 1B goaltending tandem and re-sign both of them.

    I don’t see Purcell playing with McDavid as he is too slow and Yak still has some defensive issues so he shouldn’t be placed with the rookie either. That mean’s Yakupov’s only chance to play with a veteran playmaking center is Nugent-Hopkins (and hopefully Pouliot). If Purcell improves, he will take away that opportunity, and I think Purcell’s ceiling is now in the 35 pts range whereas Yakupov’s ceiling could be in the 70 pt range.

    The only reason I’d want to see either Purcell or Nikitin improve is to “pump and dump” them and then let others earn their spots.

  • Oiler Fan 16

    All of the Oilers, save Hall, have been in poor shape for years. It shows in their play.

    Ference may be in shape, but he’s not a good hockey player, so whoopy.

    The Oilers need to capitalize on the work ethic of CM and Hall. Too many years of lazy play, lazy coaches and lazy off-seasons may be too much to overcome, but I think it can be done and they’re going through a transformation. Now Hall will be able to look at his teammates and count on them to have put in as much work as he has getting ready for the season.

  • Spydyr

    I refuse to drink the Kool-aid.

    Ben is a career back-up.

    Teddy is a pu$$y

    Nikitin is just a another overpaid Russian defenceman that is only over here for a pay check and does not care enough.

  • Chris.

    I’m terrified that Purcell will have career year finding chemistry with McDavid in the top six, earn himself a nice extension, cause Yakupov to be traded, and then revert back in 2016/2017…

    I hope that unlike all previous Oiler GM’s not named Sather; Chiarelli understands that a “pump and dump” maneuver only works if you actually have the stones to trade a player when he is running hot.