Finally, some actual organizational depth

Useful

It has taken a decade but for the first time since 2006, it is beginning to look like the Oilers have some actual, useful organizational depth. Having prospects is one thing, having players who increase your chances of being competitive in the NHL is a completely different story, and the Oilers finally have some young players who are not only able to fill in when injuries occur, but are also contributing in games.

Iiro Pakarinen, Darnell Nurse and Leon Draisaitl have all produced since being recalled from Bakersfield. Brandon Davidson was #8 on the defensive depth chart when the season started, but injuries to Griffin Reinhart and Justin Schultz created an opportunity for him and his play has earned him more icetime. Anton Slepyshev made the team out of training camp, and he hasn’t looked out of place.

Some of the injured Oilers are getting healthy, so head coach Todd McLellan will have some tough decisions to make.

This is a good problem for McLellan, one his four predecessors never had.

When Jordan Eberle, Matt Hendricks and Rob Klinkhammer got injured the Oilers recalled Draisaitl, and he’s scored five points in two games. I’m not saying he’s knocked Eberle out of the top-six, but when Eberle returns, possibly as early as next week, McLellan will have a few options of how he wants to run his top lines.

The salary cap could play a factor. The Oilers are already at the $5.5 million maximum for bonus overages, so Draisaitl counts as a $3.4 million cap hit, although he is essentially a $3 million cap hit due to when he was called up.  Regardless of the actual dollars, when Eberle is activated they will need to shed some money. Draisailt might be a cap casualty, but if he keeps playing well GM Peter Chiarelli will have to look at other money-saving options.

The Oilers had 25 skaters on the ice this morning:

Hall-RNH-Draisaitl

Pouliot-McDavid-Yakupov

Hendricks-Letestu-Purcell

Gazdic-Lander-Pakarinen

Korpikoski-Slepyshev-Eberle

Sekera-Fayne

Klefbom-Davidson

Nurse-Ference

Reinhart-Gryba

Talbot and Nilsson

Eberle and Lauri Korpikoski are not ready to return, but Matt Hendricks looks like he could be ready to play tomorrow vs. Philadelphia. If he is, the Oilers will need to activate him from the IR, and send someone to the AHL.

Mark Fayne was a healthy scratch on Saturday, but considering the Oilers lost, he could draw back in tomorrow. If they sit him two games in a row they clearly are unhappy with him. I’d dress Nurse ahead of many of the veteran defenders at this point, but I will admit I’m bullish on his ability. I recognize he makes some mistakes, but his skill overshadows his inexperience in my eyes. 

Regardless of who plays tomorrow night, it is a welcome change to see the Oilers with actual depth. It isn’t perfect yet, but it is much better than we’ve seen in the past. The team doesn’t need to have Mark Arcobello or Linus Omark in the top-six. They have a legitimate offensive talent in Draisaitl.

Davidson and Nurse have emerged as contributing blueliners, and they are major upgrades over the likes of Brad Hunt, Philip Larsen, David Musil and others.

When Eberle, Schultz, Korpikoski and even Rob Klinkhammer are healthy, McLellan will have to make some decisions that might not be very popular. It should be an interesting next ten days as the Oilers shuffle their roster.

QUICK HITS…

Stopwatch

  • I watched Saturday’s game in the crowd. My buddy Sean was celebrating his 40th and over 20 of us were at the game. I can’t recall a recent regular season game that crushed Oilers fans like Saturday’s loss to the Flames. Everyone in the building and watching at home was expecting OT, but then Talbot allowed Frolik to score from the corner. It was a terrible goal by Talbot, and it ruined any potential of another great comeback by the Oilers. 
  • All of my friends are diehard Oilers fans and Sean looked at me right after the goal and said, “I wish I was emotionally disconnected to the team like you are right now. This *&^&(*#$ sucks. That was awful.” I think many of you felt the exact same way. It was just an awful loss.
  • Connor McDavid was named NHL rookie of the month for October after scoring 5-7-12 in 12 games. He edged out Max Domi 5-6-11 in eleven games. 

  • The NHL has not surprisingly found a new way to limit offence. The goaltending interference rule is a joke if they will regularly disallow goals like they did at Rexall on Saturday night. I would have counted both goals, but the Letestu interference call was atrocious. Joffrey Lupul’s disallowed goal versus the Rangers was just as mind boggling. The NHL’s explanation is bogus. Don’t be surprised to see more goalies initiate minor contact in hopes of getting calls. The last thing the NHL needs is disallowing goals involving minimal to no contact on the goalie, especially when players aren’t even in the crease. 
  • The Oilers have a few options when they activate Hendricks. They could just put Korpikoski on IR, retroactive to last Wednesday. Or they could send down Slephyshev or Reinhart, who hasn’t played in two weeks. 
  • Ready to Win

    The organizational dept has improved but compared to what? They were so handicapped by previous management that it is going to take a year or maybe two to dump the useless vets and then hit a couple of homeruns to add the right players to the mix. As far as I’m concerned twelve games is too early to panic over goaltending. Much of the club’s record this season is from slow starts and a mostly inept veteran defence.

    I would respectfully suggest that some of Chiarelli’s moves on defense is a result of the fact all his management experience came building a ream for the east. That fact doesn’t buy him a lot of space but he is adjusting to trying to learn how to build a team for the west.

    Keep your pecker up. It will improve. It’s now a question of how much time Chiarelli needs to get ‘er done on D. I am hopeful.

  • oilbaron

    The good news is that we get another team coming in after playing the night before. We need to take advantage as this is bound to start to even out I would expect.

  • S cottV

    If Leon and Nurse continue to perform, I would suggest Griff and his potential bonus money get moved to Bakersfield (and he does not have to clear waivers). The Oil could also waive Klinkhammer and remove his cap hit too (under $950 000) without too much concern. Guys like Purcell still cost a significant amount against the cap (only get $950 000 relief if he clears waivers) so moving him is not financially feesible. The way Davidson is playing and at his price point, some team with injuries or an available roster spot will claim him (so I would keep him here unless he starts to falter). Slepysev and Pakarinen are the only other choices to move since they still are not subject to waivers (and garner a cap savings).
    Simply put, the high priced vets (on one way contracts) who do not appear to be performing are staying in Edmonton (unless you switch one with Nikitin). The GM’s give them out so the cap problems that arise are theirs to fix. It would be interesting to hear how Pete justifies his moves to Todd. I would hate to see Leon and Darnell get bounced up and down all season if they out perform others.

  • Canoe Ride 27.1

    With all these forwards set to return is there room for Gazdic?

    I’ll take Hendo, Klink, Korp, Slepy, and Pak any day over Luke on the 4th line. I love him but he’s one dimensional. That ship has sailed.

    Who can tell me what “enforcer” the Blackhawks allocate a roster spot to?

  • Serious Gord

    I think Nuge farted on Ramo when he skated by, I’m surprised that wasn’t called goalie interference. It’s pretty bad now and needs to be addressed before more wins are taken away from the oil.

    I’ve always thought once a goalie leaves his comfy safe blue ice he is fair game and should be treated as a player. I remember Shawn horcoff chasing down a puck and belfour having it down as well. Horcoff gets the goal but hits belfour at the blue line. Goal disallowed and horcoff gets a goalie interference penalty. Complete BS.

  • Serious Gord

    Why does anybody judge Oilers goaltenders using save %? With the chances and traffic we allow that stat is completely meaningless, especially compared to other goalies in the NHL.

    There needs to be a stat for a allowing goals at critical times, like the goal Talbot allowed last game to lose. It doesn’t matter how many saves you make if you don’t save that last one. Some goalies are clutch, some aren’t.

    When people use Dubnyk’s save % as an argument as to why he was good in Edmonton it makes me laugh, considering the amount of junk he gave up when it mattered. Good for him for turning his game around, but he was not a #1 when he was here. Salo was another goalie who had a habit of allowing the winning goal with 5 minutes left in the game, no matter the quality of shot.

  • Serious Gord

    Oilers have drafted well of late for first round players , but are mostly shutout getting any complimentary pieces that fit nicely on team . Other routes have not faired well either when it comes to a decent complimentary base .

  • Serious Gord

    I never thought about goalies exploiting the rule. Now though, how could they not. Just a little bit of contact on a guy screening you and then no goal. Man that is horrible to think this is the new NHL.