Thursday Thoughts: Reinhart, Khaira and more

Something tells me Oilers fans could get used to this.

Edmonton is 6-3-1 in their last ten games and within striking distance of a playoff spot. They are competitive, and while they are far from a finished product, they are getting results and playing much more competitive hockey.

Here are the numbers during the 10-game span:

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Goals for: 23
Goals against: 23

PP: 5 of 32 (15.6%)

PK: 26 of 30 (86.7%)

Shots for: 284

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Shots against: 321

Faceoffs: 51.3% (305-289)

Anders Nilsson has a .941sv% in his nine starts during this span. He has been fantastic. We know that SV% is unsustainable the rest of the way, but when a goalie gets on a hot streak like this his team usually wins, and winning breeds confidence.

The Oilers relinquished a third period lead last night, allowing two goals in 1:30, but they didn’t fold and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Pakarinen was credited with goal during the game, but they gave it to RNH 90 minutes after the game when they could watch it on a TV system with better frame by frame ability), tied the game less than three minutes later.

They didn’t fold. They didn’t self destruct, and for anyone who has watched this team closely for the past six seasons, that is significant progress — and they are doing it without Connor McDavid. He will make them better when he returns in the New Year.

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They are initiating contact rather than reacting. They are winning more battles, and they are becoming a harder team to play against. They still make mistakes, and still have deficiencies in their game, but we are seeing tangible improvements and it is refreshing to witness after so many years of losing and virtually no improvement.


  • Mark Fayne cleared waivers and as I mentioned yesterday Nikita Nikitin has been recalled to replace him. Nikitin has played well according to head coach Gerry Fleming, but I don’t see him drawing into the lineup tomorrow. He will get some playing time soon, however, because other teams have expressed interest in acquiring him. The Oilers would retain 50% of his salary, and a trade closer to the deadline, when is cap hit is lower, could happen.
  • When I spoke with Fleming I also asked him about Griffin Reinhart, and what the coaching staff would be focusing on with him now that he is in Bakersfield.

“He’s a good player. He has come
down with the understanding there are things in his game he needs to improve
on. He is taking steps to work on those things. We are going to play the heck
out of him, that’s what he is here for; to get better. We are going to use him
in all situations. We did on the weekend and he responded well. I thought he
played well. There are certain things in his game he has to improve if he is
going to be a consistent, effective, everyday player.

What are those things specifically, I asked.

“I think just quickness, moving the puck, decision making,
competing all the time and being hard to play against. When I talk about hard
to play against I mean in all aspects. Hard in front of the net, hard in
corners, being physical, making simple plays and being a consistent player who
you can rely on in every situation. That is what he is here for and we will use
him in all those situations and challenge him to improve in those areas,” said Fleming

How do you get him to improve and become harder to play against?

“A lot of it is through video and in practice when you go
against your best player. If you do it in practice against the best, it will
translate to when he plays against the other team’s difficult players. It is constant reminders, but positive ones. You work with the player, not against him,” said Fleming.

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  • It is way too early to call Reinhart a bust or a bad trade. I did not like the deal at the time, but the two picks he was traded for are no closer to being in the NHL than he is. However, the areas Reinhart needs to work on are the same areas I was concerned about when he was acquired. Time will tell if Bob Green and Peter Chiarelli made the right decision, but much of it will be up to Reinhart to put in the work and improve his game.
  • Khaira has impressed me in his brief stint thus far. He is a much better skater than I remember him being last year. Fleming explained why.

    “We really noticed it (improved speed) when he came back from his injury last
    year. He had separated his elbow and had some issues with his forearm. While he was
    injured he worked on his legs a lot, and we noticed that his power and
    quickness had improved significantly when he returned to the ice. He was a pretty good player for us down the stretch
    and in the playoffs. He worked hard in the summer.”

  • I also asked Fleming what Khaira was doing better than Bogdan Yakimov to get recalled.

    “Khaira was playing a heavier game, but Bo (Yakimov) is getting
    better at that. Just understanding he needs to be more physical on the
    forecheck, go through guys a little bit more. He’s a presence and when he leans
    on guys he is tough to play against. That is what JJ was doing well,” explained Fleming.

    Khaira has continued that in Edmonton. He has been a good compliment to Eberle and RNH. He gives them some size and is able to win a few more puck battles.

  • I also asked about Anton Slepyshev and what he is working on.

    “One thing most guys have to work on when they come down here
    is their play away from the puck. We have done a lot of video with him and many
    different things in practice, and you can see actual improvements in his play
    away from the puck. Just being more aware, more conscience, working harder away
    from the puck, working harder to get to the puck, playing on the inside and
    doing the things he needs to improve to get back up there.

    “His play with the puck has been good. We are trying to get him to get the puck
    off quicker, he has a heck of a shot. He understands the game very well, he
    sees the ice very well, but he just needs to work on the areas I mentioned and
    continue to add to what you do well like JJ (Khaira) has,” Fleming said.

  • Teddy Purcell had a maintenance day today. Benoit Pouliot skated for the first time with the team. Rob Klinkhammer skated and he is close to returning. “We are close to getting guys back and that will create competition, which is great,” said McLellan.
  • Late in practice a strange sequence. A shot hit Klefbom in the ankle, and then ricocheted up in Brandon Davidson’s face. Both were down on the ice. Klefbom skated away and after a few minutes was fine before leaving the ice. Davidson went straight to the room, but no serious damage for either player.
  • Reminder to fans going to game tomorrow night or watching it at home. The Glen Sather ceremony starts at 6:20 p.m. It will last 30 minutes, then the teams will warm up and puck drop will be 7:37 p.m. 


Thanks to Justin and Tanner for their bids yesterday, and to On the Rock and the Ranch Golf Course for donating them.

Package #1:


  • Two swivel recliners bonded in leather from Dinette and Patio Furniture.
  • A pair of seats to Glen Sather’s banner night between the Oilers and Rangers.

Package #2

Twenty rounds of golf at Eagle Rock Golf Course.

You can bid by calling 780.444.1260 or text 101260 between 2-6 p.m. today.

Thanks in advance. All proceeds go towards Santas Anonymous.

Recently by Jason Gregor:    

  • Steveland Cleamer

    I loved watching JJ play last night, and it felt like it brought the whole team up a level in “team toughness”. It’s nice to see the Oilers finally being the aggressor and if they can get Yakimov or Slepshyev to up their game and bring that toughness to the Oil, they’ll only be more fun to watch.

  • Serious Gord

    Players coming up are having a huge impact. Other than the obvious: Nurse and Dr. Drai are others that are more unexpected such as Kaira, Pakarinen and Davidson. Next up are Slepyshev, Yakimov and Brossoit. This is beginning to look like a pipeline of up and coming young players. With the young team we currently have, could the future look bright? Yikes!

    Exciting times.

    • .

      Does this mean that we might want to revisit the general condemnation of the MacT and Tambo drafting efforts? I think these are all pre-Chia signings, save Pak, yes?

      • Danglishish

        I think, when assessed as part of the entire drafting/personnel management done by MacT/Tambo, the verdict is still one of complete and utter failure. Way too many horrendous decisions to be overshadowed by a couple of quality picks.

      • CMG30

        My condemnation was not so much about drafting as it was about player development e.g. putting Schultz in top 2 D, against top lines with top minutes as a young D with no NHL experience was a disaster and badly shook his confidence. I think the way TMac and PC develop players places more emphasis on moving them through proper development phases rather than rushing them. Nurse and Dr. Drai were both sent back down for more maturation. Clearly they were ready but top minutes in the AHL are key. Then they were moven up the depth chart based on performance more than team need (as with Schultz i.e. MacT gave himself no choice). Player confidence means everything. Destroy that and you destroy the player……IMHO

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    Khaira up and looking good with Yakimov and Slepyshev bubbling under waiting for another shot. This team can end up looking like a Bruins team pretty quickly actually. That’s some size and talent right there. AND it’s homebrewed.

  • Serious Gord

    “they are doing it without Connor McDavid. He will make them better when he returns in the New Year.”

    Who is this Connor McDavid that you speak of?

    “Belly laugh”

  • The Soup Fascist


    Based on his play in the NHL, Nikitin is not an elite defenceman, but he is paid like a top-4 defender. So are teams trading for him as a player or as an expiring contract? You see that type of trade in the NBA regularly; trade for a player primarily for cap relief.

    If all they’re really looking for is cap relief, then would the best return be a draft pick? Or would they be better off just holding onto him and getting the cap relief themselves?

    • Jason Gregor

      A team acquiring him would get no cap relief. Nothing like that in NHL.

      If a team trades for him it is because they want D depth down the stretch. Oilers deal him because they have enough other Dmen…

  • Oilers won one for Chiarelli against Boston then followed it up with a W for McLellan against the Sharks.

    Only one thing left to do on Glen Sather appreciation night and win one for him against his Rangers!

    Go Oilers!

  • Jason Gregor

    It’s nice hear how much the coach is working with these guys in specific areas.

    I would think this has a lot to do with Khaira’s play so far. Makes me think that although Nurse is carrying his weight up here, a little more time in the minors would have been a very good thing.

  • CMG30

    The Oilers have a good thing going with the Condors. Its great to see JJ rocking with RNH & EBS. Oil – Condors D moves are looking fine too.

    The Oil were bound to some iffy contracts and that resulted in a less than prime NHL roster to start. The Coaches and PC seem to have a very good handle on getting some cred this season with the recent uptick.

    My bet is the trade deadline will see some action on NN and Fayne as mentioned in this article. I know the roster will get a huge make over in the summer as more contract flexibility is handed to PC.

  • The Soup Fascist

    The bright side of the numerous injuries to date this season is the first real glimpse of the players in the pipeline. I tend to think it’s a combination of coaching and the organization’s willingness to remove the sense of entitlement that has existed around vets with 1-way contracts. The chronic b.s. that has gone on here seems to be on the way out.

    This is the first sign of functional accountability around the Oilers in a very long time. I think the players are responding to the demonstration of that reality. This finally looks like ‘arrows up’.

    • Rob...

      How about the simplest reason. Until 2010 the Oilers did not have a farm system. the building of a minor league system by Kevin Lowe and Darrell Katz is why there are young developing players to feed the Oilers.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    Oilers dealt essentially 2 first rd picks in a strong draft. Hated the deal then and hate it more now.

    When you trade a #16 and #33 for a unproven player you better be sure. Serious mistake.

    Don’t care what they gave up for Talbot or others. Those trades a reasonable. Look what Dougie Hamilton went for.

    Don’t really know who was person that made that trade. Chia at the draft looked confused when it happened.

  • Jason Gregor

    League is getting faster and Oilers trade for slow skater who is a left D-man and give up #16 and #33.

    No wonder they have been the worst team in the NHL for the last 10 years.

    • AJ88

      Lol, you’re probably the type of guy who complains because the Oilers are “building through the draft and not getting real players”. Can’t have it both ways, bud.

  • Caussie

    I’ve shared my dislike about the Reinhart trade since day one. I could’ve swallowed it a little better if he was atleast a right shot, but why give up that much for another Leftie?

    Can’t really judge the trade now, but Barzal and Carlo is who I would’ve drafted with those picks. So we’ll see what those players turn into and what Reinhart turns into before we can really call that trade a bust

  • All you arm chair pundits threw Neon Leon under the bus last season as a bust and now you can barely wipe the drool off your hair lips when he dangles the competition.

    Reinhart is still a young prospect regardless of the picks that were given up to get him! Give him time to mature into his own skin and find his way. Its like people need a new whipping boy every time the last one proves them wrong.

  • notarealdoctor

    Best defense the Oilers ever had was 1988(look it up): Lowe-Muni, Smith-Beukeboom, Gregg-Huddy. None of those would be considered the “true Number 1” everyone seems to think you can’t win without. All three pairs could play shutdown and score a little, and none of them were fun to play against.

    Point is there’s more than one way to skin a cat and the D-corps we are assembling today could be effective without resembling the Kings or the Blackhawks. I think young Mr. Reinhart could fit very well into this picture, and all the whingeing about the draft picks will go away before the players that were taken with those picks are established in the NHL.

    • Serious Gord

      Who are these people who say you must have a pure # 1 d? Absolutely it helps a heck of a lot – just look at the Stanley cup winners of the past ten years – only the hurricanes and penguins did not have one of the true elite.

      But what has changed in the past few years and particularly in the last couple is that true, stay at home defensemen don’t cut it for the first and second lines. They all have to be able to move the puck and at least have some offensive ability. Reinhart does not fit into that picture.

      • You don’t think he can keep up with the 10 points Oduya put up out of Chicago’s top 4 last year? The 12 points Mitchell put up for LA in their top 4 the year before? That would be the last couple would it not?Ference was in the top 4 the year Boston won, there’s an offensive juggernaut.

        Pretty much every team in your “last 10 years” list had a stay at home defenseman in the top 4.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    i LOVE that song! Khaira is playing too well to send back, but i’m afraid he’ll be going back when Pouliot, Nail and McD come back. drag really.

    • Dan 1919

      Always tough to make a call on a rookie playing his first few NHL games, but if he keeps it up… Big body who can skate. Why not keep him around playing with Nuge and Ebs, then re-establish the Pou, McD, Yak line.

      Talk about easy matches for Nuge & Ebs.

  • Wow, lots of hate for Reinheart and the trade here in the comments. I encourage everyone to remember nothing is in a vacum. Is Reinheart’s ceiling 3rd pair? Maybe, but that will be a value contract for a young guy who can do that difficult role for a lot of years. All good teams have a strong shut down third pairing to do some tough minutes dirty work. Why not have a guy who could be great at that on the cheap and is still young enough and has enough pedigree to grow his game?

    As for look what Calgary gave up for Hamilton, two things, Hamilton has been brutal defensively for a team that should have “the best defence in the league,” and he costs a heeeeeelll of a lot more money than Reinheart, money Edmonton does not have to spend on 3rd pairing guy, but money they will now be able to spend on a legit top pairing right side guy this summer in free agency.

    Every Calgary fan I know is not very high on that Hamilton deal. Much like the Clarkson deal, I think Edmonton dodged a bullet on that one.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      all these people that hate on Reinhart are the same people who are in love with the players we didn’t take with the picks we gave up for him….Matt Barzal and the name i hear a lot with the 2nd rounder….Brandon Carlo.

      i’m still OK with this deal because Reinhart hasn’t fully developed yet and people are panicking way too early! Barzal would have only given us more of what we already have….small-ish top 6 forward who can make plays but doesn’t score a ton of goals. NOT what we need more of !! and Carlo will take several years to develop.

      • Dan 1919

        I agree, I also think these people might play a little bit too much EA NHL and not realize how damn difficult it is to pry good D men away from other teams. Those two picks do not get you Shea Weber.

        To which I’m sure they say “but look what Calgary got.” Last time I checked Calgary is last in the league with -27, Edmonton is -14. So good for Calgary for tying themselves to yet another player that will never help take them to the Stanley cup finals, and will help anchor the team with yet another big long term contract.

        • Serious Gord

          Calgarys performance so far this year prices two things: having a good healthy defense makes a big difference. Having solid goaltending is even more important.

          Calgary until very recently has had neither. They are 6-3-1 in their last ten and are on a 3 game win streak. And still they aren’t completely healthy.

          And hamiltion has gotten much better of late – he really seemed to suffer confidence issues early on.

  • BlazingSaitls

    “There are certain things in his game he has to improve if he is going to be a consistent, effective, everyday player.

    “I think just quickness, moving the puck, decision making, competing all the time and being hard to play against.” – Fleming

    Oh just those things?

    So basically Reinhart needs to work on every single skill needed to become an effective NHL defencemen. Talk about a fixer-upper.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Can we agree Chiarelli would not have drafted a small skilled forward (Barzal) at 16? So following his progress and comparing to Reinhart’s is somewhat meaningless.

    For all the love Kylington gets, he was not invited to Sweden’s WJHC camp. There was lots of talk about his attitude going into the draft. Was that the reason for the snub? Or is he just not that good at this point? Honestly I don’t know.

    I think the price paid for Reinhart was dear – and likely too much. But ringing our hands over Barzal and Kylington is likely not a worthwhile exercise.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    Jason you made reference to Nikitin likely being traded closer to the deadline so his cap hit is less; pardon my ignorance, but I’ve never understood that logic. Is the cap hit not the same no matter what part of the season? (ie as a percentage )…..if they have 20% of the season left or 100% of the season left is it not all relative? A $5 million cap hit is say 8% of a team’s cap hit at all times, it wouldn’t seem to me that the percentage would change just because it’s later in the season. What am I missing?!

  • JJ Should hire Adam Oates as Teddy did , just improve his skill level
    a bit. Can you imagine him with Just a Tad more Skill ?

    Keep Digging J.J You are filling a role needed here like forever !!

    Now scoop a Ward or Simmonds..or like Player. Good to hear Klink is close, we miss him more than some may think.

    Keep it rolling Oilers !!

  • Please stay in the race till POO-MCD-YAK get back , that line just has
    to add up to more wins down the stretch. Of course i want the playoffs but if they battled right to the end this year. I am Happy. Next year.

    LOOK OUT PACIFIC. See ya Canucks, Window has closed [again] Flames..
    pfff go away. Kings will trend down eventually. Yotes ? Midling as always.

    So happy to see the boys initiate for a change, its awesome.
    Someone can take a two hander for all i care , show…we won’t be the rented mule any more.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    anyone wants tickets to the game tomorrow i have a pair.

    Section 132 Row 16 Seat #3#4

    [email protected]

    Trying to get my money back so willing to listen to offers around $440 need christmas money for family and friends…felt like this was a good community to ask