Overhauling nine years of losing wasn’t going to be easy, and it should surprise no one that the Oilers’ losing streak extended to a decade, but I’m starting to see actual change with Peter Chiarelli at the helm. He is actually changing the makeup of his team, which was long overdue.
For many years the Oilers’ only identity was being a soft, skilled team. To make it worse they were also inexperienced — youth was expected to lead the team. It’s also hard to win when you have the least talented defensive corps in the NHL. Surprisingly, the previous regime never realized the errors of their ways.
Since Chiarelli has taken over it is clear he has a plan on how to build this team. He has added some tenacity. He’s added heavier players, but also ones with different skill sets than the current group. He has added the small pieces, and this summer is when he’ll make the significant changes this organization has desperately needed.
In the final 72 hours leading up to the trade deadline, Chiarelli continued to tweak his roster. He traded away Justin Schultz, Teddy Purcell, Anders Nilsson, Martin Gernat, the rights to Philip Larsen and a fourth round pick. He added Patrick Maroon, two third rounders, two fifth rounders and picked up Adam Pardy and Adam Cracknell on waivers.
Schultz, Larsen and Gernat were puck moving defenders who didn’t or couldn’t play physical. The common denominator was they weren’t great defenders, and while Schultz was the only one on the Oilers roster, it is obvious the type of defender Chiarelli dislikes.
If Schultz was producing points, you could accept his defensive short comings, but his confidence hit the ditch early in the season and it was obvious a change of scenery was best for both parties. Gernat will never play in the NHL, while Larsen will likely get a look in Vancouver, where the Canucks are heading in the wrong direction.
Hardy and Cracknell were acquired so Jordan Oesterle and Jujhar Khaira could continue to develop in the minors, and because the Oilers didn’t want to use all four or their post trade-deadline available AHL recalls in one day.
Maroon is a massive man. He stands 6’3 and weighs 230 pounds. He is having a down season and Chiarelli bought low. It is a concept Oilers fans haven’t seen in quite awhile, and it is low risk. The Anaheim Ducks retained 25% of Maroon’s salary, so he will be a $1.5 million cap hit for the Oilers in the final two years of his deal.
That is a solid value contract for a player who has proven he can contribute. Last season Maroon tallied 34 points. Only Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had more points last season than Maroon. He is smart enough and skilled enough to play with skilled forwards. He will add a different dimension to the forward group. Last year in the Ducks playoff run he played almost 18 minutes a game and scored 7-4-11 in 16 games. He has some skill.
Pardy has played against Maroon and talked about what he does well. “His puck control and puck protection is very good. He handles the puck very well in traffic and he has a nose for intensity. He is hard for D-men to handle, especially around the net. He has very good hands for a big man,” said Pardy.
Maroon will give the Oilers a different element. When Chiarelli arrived, the Oilers could only win playing a skill game. They didn’t have players who could grind out wins. They didn’t score many garbage goals. They didn’t win battles along the boards. Chiarelli has added some forwards in Maroon and Kassian who can help in those areas.
They are pieces to the puzzle, but the major changes will occur this summer when Chiarelli addresses the right side of his defence.
I’m interested to see where Maroon plays. He wasn’t in Buffalo for the morning skate and will be a game time decision. He lands around 4 p.m EST, so it is unlikely he will dress tonight. Nail Yakupov will take Benoit Pouliot’s spot alongside Connor McDavid and Jordan Eberle. “He’s been waiting for this opportunity and we’re giving it to him. We expect big things,” said head coach Todd McLellan.
I won’t be surprised if Maroon, when he dresses, gets a few games in the top six as well, and at the very least some time on the power play.
- I’d argue Hendricks-Lander-Cracknell might be the third line ahead of the Letestu trio tonight, and when Maroon arrives I could see Korpikoski and Pakarinen splitting time in the pressbox.
- Cracknell received rave reviews in Vancouver and many fans, bloggers and media questioned why he was placed on waivers. Cracknell (UFA) has a $575,000 cap hit, while Pakarinen (RFA) sits at $925,000. They are likely battling for a spot next season.
- Pardy will play with Brandon Davidson. Pardy shoots left but prefers playing the right side. “I’ve played a lot on the right side. I actually prefer it. I think you can create more offence,” he said. Pardy was extremely excited when I spoke to him yesterday. He has only played 14 games this year in Winnipeg and was very honest about needing to show people he can play in hopes of getting a new contract. “I need to play some games to stay in the league. I was thrilled when I got the call.” His excitement was obvious through the phone.
- I feel for Brooks Laich. He spent eleven seasons in Washington and the Capitals are finally a legit Stanley Cup contender and he gets traded to the 30th place Toronto Maple Leafs. That would be tough to swallow for any place. Maroon going from the Ducks to the Oilers isn’t great, but he wasn’t playing much in Anaheim and the presence of McDavid softens the blow a bit. Laich’s arrival in Toronto must be difficult after all the time he spent with the Capitals.
- I don’t make much of the Connor McDavid/Jack Eichel rivalry. They’ve barely played against each other. It would be great if in a few years both the Sabres and Oilers were playoff teams and those two were leading their teams. I could see it being a rivalry then, but now it isn’t, nor should it be. They will be teammates this summer, after the first 16 players for each team in the World Cup of Hockey are announced tomorrow. McDavid and Eichel will both be on team North America (U24).
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will also one of the 16 names announced for the U24 team.
- Taylor Hall will make team Canada, and he’d be on my list the first 16 names announced. Crosby, Benn, Seguin, Toews, Hall, Tavares, Getzlaf, Stamkos Bergeron and Perry would be my ten forwards. Keith, Doughty, Weber, Burns would be my four D-men. Braden Holtby and Carey Price will be the two goalies. Teams need to announce 14 skaters and two goalies.
- The rest of my roster looks like this: Ryan O’Reilly, Claude Giroux, Matt Duchene and Brad Marchand on forward, Alex Pietrangelo, PK. Subban, TJ Brodie and Marc-Edouard Vlasic on defence along with Corey Crawford in goal. Who is on your team?
- Leon Draisaitl should make team Europe. Anze Kopitar is the only forward with more points than him. Andrej Sekera also had a good shot at making team Europe.
Oscar Klefbom might have a shot at being the seventh or eighth D-man for team Sweden, but he will need to play some NHL games and play at the World Championship to get on the radar. The Swedes have some excellent D-men in Karlsson, Ekman-Larsson, Hedman, Klingberg, Hjalmarsson, Ekholm, Lindholm, Brodin and Stralman.
- For me, Chiarelli, McLellan, Hall, McDavid, RNH and Draisaitl are locks to take part in the tournament.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
Edmonton is starting a four game road trip with a league-worst 7-20-5 record away from home. The Sabres are starting a three game homestand with the second-worst home record at 11-17-3. In what has become a consistent story line in Buffalo over the past few seasons, tune in tonight to see who can be the least worst team!
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers are 26th in GF/game and GA/game. The Sabres are 29th in GF and 15th in GA. Sabres have allowed two goals or fewer in 15 of their last 22 games, while the Oilers have score three or more goals in only seven of their last 22 games. Everything points to a low scoring game. Oilers win 3-2.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Eichel has no points in his last four games, but had 14 points in his previous 14. Eichel picks up a point and McDavid gets two.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Lander picks up an assist and for the third time in his career scores points in consecutive games. It is the first time he has a goal in one game and an assist the next. His previous streaks were consecutive assists or scoring goals in consecutive games.
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