GIVE ‘EM ENOUGH ROPE

sekera corsi

It’s early days, but Andrej Sekera’s performance three games into the season doesn’t match the expectations placed on him. He’s not alone — the entire defense has been wobbly at times this year. That’s good news. Why? The future of this Oilers defense is finally coming into view. (source: HockeyAnalysis.com)

VETERANS GET MORE ROPE

NHL coaches say lots of things but their actions are the things worth paying attention to, and for Edmonton Oilers fans the past can probably predict the future.

  1. If there’s a change, expect a young player to be sent down/out. Remember last season, in the fall, when Martin Marincin was up and down like a yo-yo? He was sent to the minors October 5th and recalled on the 16th. He was inserted into the lineup, and Edmonton went 4-1 in the games he played (between 15:46 and 18:07 in those games). The Oilers then went 1-6 in the games he played through the end of November, and MM was back in the AHL. He was inconsistent in those games but veterans were making as many (or more) errors. After the November 25th game Marincin didn’t see NHL ice until February.
  2. Veterans get more chances and it sometimes drives fans crazy. This has been happening since I was a kid — the old grizzled veteran starts slow and fans are up in arms because the fresh daisy is wasting in the AHL. A coach knows the veteran can be relied on and is willing to wait an extra game or even several for said player to turn it around.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO THE CURRENT OILERS?

Edmonton is in an unusual spot because two of their most expensive blue liners, Andrew Ference and Nikita Nikitin, are unable to fill the roles one associates with their respective cap hits. Many get mad at the player, but for me the Oilers signed both men and if you’re going to yell at a cloud, best make it orange and blue.

Veterans who Todd McLellan will likely rely on this season? Andrej Sekera, Mark Fayne, Justin Schultz, Eric Gryba. Youngsters he’ll probably retain all season? Oscar Klefbom.

After that? We’re left with two young men (Griffin Reinhart and Brandon Davidson) who need to show well in their NHL opportunities.

GAME ONE, THE REINHART GAME

BLUE LAST NIGHT

In his game, Reinhart got the zone-start push with Gryba and both men had a solid possession number. McLellan, like most coaches I’ve ever seen, isn’t going to assume one good (or fairly good) game by a rookie automatically means another, but most of us (myself included) were somewhat surprised Reinhart didn’t get the next game.

GAME THREE, THE DAVIDSON GAME

oil d v dall

This is last night. Davidson got a very similar zone start (fewer minutes) and his possession number (this is all 5×5 via HockeyAnalysis.com) were less, but somewhat similar.By eye, Reinhart was the more effective player, but that’s not much to go on. I would say that both men have value to the team but that Reinhart is likely to have the more prominent role as seasons roll along.

Notice the ‘tough zone start’ pairing changed in these two games, further indicating McLellan is getting the lay of the land.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

For Oilers fans, it looks like more auditions (Reinhart next is a good bet) before eventually settling in. Andrew Ference is also in the mix and don’t count out a Darnell Nurse recall or a trade. Two things we can conclude about this Edmonton defense:

  • Todd McLellan hasn’t found his answer on the third pairing
  • This is not an outstanding group. Two too young, two too old, and so very little in their prime.

We talked about it during the Schultz arbitration period. At that time, Edmonton could have bought out Nikitin and signed Cody Franson. The Oilers decided that wasn’t better than the status quo. Which brings us here.

There’s every chance we’re witnessing Todd McLellan’s education on what Oilers fans already know: This team needs more talent on defense in its prime. Let us pray we don’t have to wait until Klefbom, Nurse and Reinhart are 25.

  • S cottV

    Reinhart may well turn out to be a decent mid to lower tier NHL d man.

    It will take some time.

    I wouldn’t read too much into advanced stats for a game or two or three.

    Reinhart may have turned in decent stats for his appearance but sometimes coaches who can look a guy in the eye, know whether or not he is up to the task at hand. You see players getting away with things in the short term, that you know damn well is through inordinate good fortune.

    I think that is why Reinhart was shelved for the last couple of games.

  • I think its a mistake to just focus on the D. Yes, they arne’t NHL quality yet, but I don’t think its abysmal. The problems are as much also rooted in the way the forwards are playing. They aren’t earning their salaries by making smart, defensivley aware, plays.

  • Serious Gord

    To my eye Reinhart was painfully slow and he made very safe plays contributing next to nil in offense.

    You cite an advanced stat lowetide as proof that he had a decent game and then recognize that Davidson had similar stats and played poorly. So the stat isn’t much help is it?

    • TartanArmy

      To my eye, Reinhart looked pretty good in his only game. Started off a little slow, but as the game went on he was hitting and shooting the puck. Compared to Davidson, I’d say Reinhart had a much stronger outing. I’m not convinced he’s as slow as people think.

        • Admiral Ackbar

          Gordo, you worry me buddy. Your constant negative Nancy comments make me suspect clinical depression or a downward path in a bipolar cycle. I can’t remember anything you’ve said to be upbeat. Contrary thinking is good when it isn’t overplayed.

          Please see a doctor.

          Also, Davidson surpassed my expectations for a 3rd pairing Dman, Reinhart too. Gryba has looked extremely slow and had more than his share of giveaways. All-in-all, the entire team has looked like garbage and are in need of discipline, not as in consequences but a stoic understanding of keeping their cool when pressured defensively and making smart, low-risk zone exits.

          I also believe that team D has been the true culprit here. There’s been poor puck support and it seems like the forwards have no clue how to handle pinching pressure. I certainly don’t think all the blame should be on the the Dmen themselves. Lest we forget Pouliot and Yak on the game winner and Hall’s horrid dump-in before the EN.

          • Serious Gord

            I have indeed been very critical for years of this team – primarily management but also some players. And in the vast, vast majority of cases I was proven correct.

            But I did state that some of the top picks had the potential to be hhof players. Sadly it seems that some if not all of them have been mal-developed and may not be able to reach the potential I thought they had. I have also opined that the team has about a 15% chance of making the playoffs this year and that I think the will deliver on it.

            It is the fans who have been unrelentingly optimistic (lowetide) for almost a decade now that perhaps you should be directing to consult medical help.

        • TartanArmy

          Draisaitl is also better than Slepyshev…..is that also damning with faint praise? Not sure I’m understanding you here. Davidson does not have the pedigree of Reinhart so we expect GR to have a better showing, don’t know how that’s damning.

    • MattyFranchise

      Yes it would be nice to have Reinhart contribute to offense but isn’t that what all of the first overall picks and high scoring first rounders are for?

      Reinhart played well defensively and since that’s his job and what the Oilers need as a team I’m not going to hold it against him if he Regehrs it up and only gets like 10 points a season while playing well defensively.

        • Serious Gord

          I have no problem with that. you can’t judge a player after 1 game. I will go further, you can’t judge a defence after 3 games. They are playing with new partners and anyone that has ever played the game will tell you it takes time to get use to each other. This is a new coaching staff with new players it will take time for them to get to know who they have. So relax everyone what we need is to see progress through this season.

          • Serious Gord

            But I am not making any final judgement – nor is lowetide. We are just saying what we think it is we saw. We differ.

            Nowhere have I said any conclusions of any firmness should be made. Many many others are.

            I have said more than once on this site that twenty games or so is the bogey.

            I think it undeniable that besides the goaltending there has been little that has gone right in the first 15% of that period. And that Reinhart has not done anything yet – very small sample size acknowledged – to give me much confidence that he’s going to be a success comensurate to what was paid to acquire him.

            I think it a safe bet that he will play tomorrow. And that we likely won’t be seeing Davidson in EDM silks again for a long time if ever. The winnowing has already begun.

    • Klam

      Davidson looked like a pylon on Benn’s goal. Davidson did not look like he belonged by the eye.

      So was Davidson trying to cover for Gryba? Or was Gryba trying to cover for Davidson?

      Gryba looked better with Ference and Reinhart.

      So you tell me, who should keep playing?

  • TartanArmy

    Soon, I think we’ll see Nurse and Draisaitl called up. If we can move Purcell, do it soon. The more we see him play the more his value drops. The Slepyshev experiment should come to a close, let him work out his game in the AHL. This makes room for Draisaitl. To make room for Nurse, we need to risk losing Davidson by sending him down.

    • bazmagoo

      No matter what way you look at it, this is one of the primary factors for our slow start. Not many teams can ditch a top 4 defenceman for picks and be competitive the following season. Our Oilers are no exception.

  • TartanArmy

    Jays win series 3-2 . Go Jays . Stay the course and risk losing the season again . Toronto unlikely to do any better with Babcock as coach of their group , so I rather doubt McLellan going to fare much better with our group .

  • TartanArmy

    “We talked about it during the Schultz arbitration period. At that time, Edmonton could have bought out Nikitin and signed Cody Franson. The Oilers decided that wasn’t better than the status quo. Which brings us here.”

    Still curious to me why Chia didn’t do this, especially given that the term Franson signed with Buffalo would have been a perfect fit here by providing cover for the kids for the next 2 years. I would have also let Schultz walk and used that $4MM to sign someone who shoots, hits and generally gives a flying fart (his pre-season didn’t fool me).

  • a lg dubl dubl

    I would have to think a few of the “experiments” will slow down per say. Slepy really isn’t ready; Davidson can be sent down anytime 1 game or not he needs to season in the A not in the press box; Ference, is he really better than Reinhart? Me thinks not.

    I get that PC and McLellan want Drai to get better at his natural position, but what can it hurt to play him on the RW til Ebs gets back, then send him down again if it warrants; or trade/put on waivers Purcell if Leon plays better than Teddy.

  • A-Mc

    So the Oilers need a physical, good skating, puck moving D man that contributes offensively?

    When does nurse get the call?

    I’ll advocate for him any chance I get. He is of more value to this team than Reinhart, gryba, ference or Davidson, IMO. He may prove to be ahead of Schultz as well, if given a chance

  • Spoils

    Strikes me while we are 0-3 you could really get value selling our first pick in 2016… Maybe package that pick up with a 2nd in 2017, and Leon Draisaitl and see if we can get a #1D.

    Oh wait, sorry they never trade #1Ds. Said the fan who lost Pronger, Coffee, and Dougie Hamilton.

  • Can one of you guys point me to the article from this summer titled “Franson waited for Oilers offer, but moved on when it didn’t come.”

    There’s no way we can know what players the Oilers pursued unless it gets leaked, which is almost never.

    To say McLellan didn’t make this or that offer, or “missed” on a key player is fan narrative for the most part and by stating so it implies said fans actually know what’s going on. They don’t.

    I tend to think LT is more connected than he lets on, but if there is substantiation to the statement, why not give us the details? That’s the cool story I’d want to know.

  • Serious Gord

    Bad drafting still haunts our defense we have no veterans that were drafted by the Oilers, the future looks good with Klef,Nurse ,Davidson etc.but where are the guys that should have been leading the way for them. Bad drafting has left us signing over the hill players and overpaying for 3rd pairing guys and playing them in the top four.

    • Serious Gord

      Boy I get tired of repeating myself! You can’t develop players without a farm team! The Oilers did not have one till 2010. You all bitch9 and complain about Mr Katz but since he bought the team he has 2 minor league teams to develop players but that takes longer than 5 years!!

        • camdog

          We will never know, could be with the proper coaching they may of progressed. But that is the past and you must admit that the Oilers have built a good system. Now let us stop talking about rushing those players up to the Oilers. Patients is hard after all these lean years, but please let’s do it right this time.

          • Serious Gord

            They’ve built a system. We will have to wait a while to see if it’s a good one. Already there has been a lot of personnel changes and of course a location change.

    • Serious Gord

      Agree completely. And it is what makes Chia’s job so difficult. And what very likely will require one or two of the thoroughbreds to be dealt to get veteran number one d. Sadly this means the team will not become the epic powerhouse it could have been.

      Klowe and the old boys will haunt and frustrate oil fans for years to come.

  • hagar

    I think people are forgetting why Nurse and LD are in the AHL.

    Yes they out played skaters that are on the team now, but the oil want to build them to be part of the core the best way possible for everyone.

    We have rushed to many players, not anymore. If we want to the Detroit way we have to do it the Detroit way. Their is no short cuts….

    I personal don’t want to move LD or Nurse up here till they are ready for the top two lines. We’re they belong.

    • Hemmercules

      I heard he went to both Jay’s games down there. Probably safe to say he wasn’t drinking waters and eating healthy at the games. Rumours though. I think if tmac knew he was hungover he might scratch him to send a message.

      • Reg Dunlop

        Maybe the oil will benefit from St. Louis players sitting around for 2 days in Edmonton getting loaded, then dry-heaving up until game time tomorrow. Or not, because they are professionals and they smell a chance to fatten their stats against a ghastly Oiler squad.

        Well on their way to a 0-10 start. Could be the only way to spur the paralytic mgmt. group into making meaningful changes. No more shuffling 4th liners around.

      • Crap message.

        When i was deemed to have too much fun the night(s) before, my Dad would work me harder.

        That sent a message, we have a job to do, lets get it done. And no weaselling out due to self inflicted wounds.

        Pfft

    • A-Mc

      Holy hell, you read too much twitter. I work in an office and at least a quarter of the people are sick with one thing or another right now. Its that time of year.

      Is it really hard to believe that one of 20 Oilers is also sick? I would say this is much more likely than Hall getting drunk the day before a game.

      Try TMZ or US Magazine sites, they might be more up your alley if you like gossip.

  • Dan 1919

    The biggest thing I noticed from the defence (Shultz especially), is how slow they try and break out of their own zone. The Oilers need to be WAY quicker on the transition. It seems somewhere along the lines one of the 15 coaches may have said not to panic and take your time making an outlet play. The whole team has read this completely wrong and tries to stop and have a picnic every time they get the puck in their zone.

    They need to not panic and make quick, short, crisp passes out of their zone. 70% of the time they spent hemmed in their zone must have been from waiting too long with the puck then consequently turning it over after the other team rushes them on the for check or has 12 seconds to get in position to intercept every available passing lane.

    • Dan 1919

      Although I’m concerned about the Oilers’ D overall… I’m really not worried about Sekera. He’s three games into a new team that is learning a new system. Sekera is no Weber, but his skill and experience will see him prove more valuable than Franson or Petry soon enough.

      We’ve seen him have a slow start so we fear the worst, Nikitan 2.0. Sekera is way better than Nikitan ever was… He just needs a few games with his new team… I hope.

  • hagar

    Our “core” players play this game in the most pathetic way possible.. it’s complete random try, then suck.

    I respect someone that sucks but tries 100 times more, than someone who is good, but doesn’t try.

    The number one challenge for PC and Todd is to figure out why the oilers talent can turn the switch off and on for good vs suck.

    I am sick of watching these “core” players pick and choose when they want to try.

    Talking about Hall having Mcdavid move in as some sort of mentoring thing… I almost puked when I heard that.. Mcdavid would have been way better off living at my house.

  • Serious Gord

    Will we finish above San Jose or Arizona this season , seeing as they lead the division at 3 wins – no losses so far ? We might be slightly better than last year , but results wise we could end up worse than last season . Two fine coaches might be fighting it out for basement of the league in Babcock and McLellan .

  • One thing I notice from watching other teams is that despite all our “skill” in the top six, we’re rarely able to make more than 1 tape to tape pass in a row. I’m guessing this is more a confidence thing, but we can never maintain possession of the puck with skill. Or with aggression/physical play of course.

    The D can’t make an outlet pass, and the forwards can’t keep possession of the puck. And this goes for all of them (Nuge, Hall, Yak). They can never keep the play going.

  • camdog

    It’s funny how everybody talks about the third pairing guys when Mark Fayne who is supposed to be playing top 4 minutes is the problem.

    He’s playing awesome on the penalty kill, however he can’t survive in the top 4 at even strength. The team needs to find Sekera a partner that can actually think the game. If Nurse isn’t ready then at some point one of these 3rd pairing d-man is going to need to move up in the line up.

  • camdog

    I remember the day when Mact said he didn’t really know what he had with Jeff Petry so he challenged him on a 1 year contract. That of course was when he was paired with d-man like Smid and Ference.

    It’s going to take me a long time before I am able to make a judgement on Sekera, because he doesn’t really have a steady defensive partner capable of playing top 4 minutes. When you ice a 5-man unit you are only as strong as the weakest member.

  • “McLellan, like most coaches I’ve ever seen, isn’t going to assume one good (or fairly good) game by a rookie automatically means another, but most of us (myself included) were somewhat surprised Reinhart didn’t get the next game”

    I don’t understand why this is so baffling to so many people. It’s obvious as the day is long that this was McLellan’s plan since before game one and that he is sticking to it because no one as forced him to deviate from it yet.