While Peter Chiarelli tries to reshape the Oilers into a contender, he is also overseeing Team North America (U23) for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey. He is one of many general managers wearing two hats this season, and when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins wasn’t named one of the original 16 members of team NA, many wondered what Chiarelli was doing.
He doesn’t have autonomy when selecting the team. Stan Bowman is the other GM, while Adam Graves is Special Assistant to the General
Managers; Pat Verbeek and Paul Fenton are each a Director of Player Personnel; while Ryan Jankowski is the
Director of Operations. Todd McLellan is the head coach, while Dave Tippett, Gerard Gallant, John Cooper and Jay Woodcroft are the assistants.
The six members of the management team met with the coaching staff a few weeks ago to discuss the team. It was decided then that Nugent-Hopkins wouldn’t be on the original roster.
Chiarelli was on my radio show yesterday, and before I even asked him a question about RNH he addressed the isituation.
“I won’t dance around it. I spoke with Ryan a couple weeks ago and told him he wouldn’t be on the initial roster. I said, Ryan you are a valuable player. I like the way you play. You have a good two-way component to your game in addition to being offensive. I said you’ve been hurt, you’ve had a down year and get back to where you are capable of and you will make this team.
“We talked about his game at length. We had a real constructive talk. He knows how I feel about him as a player, both as the GM of the Oilers and the North America team,” said Chiarelli.
Nugent-Hopkins will make this team unless he is injured on June 1st. I don’t think it matters much if a player is one of the first sixteen chosen, or one of the last seven. If they play well at the mini-camp then they will play in the tournament. Once management picks the team, the coaches will decide who plays. RNH will have a slight advantage because his head coach will know him better than the majority of the other players.
I took a few things from RNH’s absence on the original roster.
Chiarelli isn’t afraid to make a tough decision. Being a GM in the NHL isn’t easy, and sometimes you need to be ruthless. Not being named to the first wave of players is different than cutting a player or deciding not to re-sign them, but it showed me he’ll make the tough decision when needed. This is great, because this summer he’ll need to make a tough decision when deciding which of his forwards to trade to acquire a top-level defender.
Chiarelli might be using it as a motivational tool. He wants to see how RNH will respond when he returns to the NHL. This isn’t the same as MacTavish challenging Petry (not a great plan) by signing a one-year deal. The Oilers have RNH under contract for five more seasons, and he, like many Oilers, have been too comfortable. Adding a bit of adversity is a good thing, especially because Chiarelli said later on he fully expects Nugent-Hopkins to make the team. You can challenge the player without embarrassing him.
The other factor is not as flattering. It is possible the other members of the management team aren’t as high on RNH as many in Edmonton are. There is no chance anyone would trade RNH straight up for JT Miller, so I understand those questioning why he was named before Nugent-Hopkins, but I don’t think we can rule out the possibility opposing GMs and scouts aren’t as high on Oilers players. It doesn’t mean they are correct, but it is very plausible.
Nugent-Hopkins is skating with the Oilers and seems destined to return to the lineup soon. The earliest return would most likely be next Saturday, March 12th versus Arizona. I don’t see him pouting over his omission from the roster, but I won’t be surprised if he feels he has something to prove, not only to his GM, but to the entire NHL.
I fully expect RNH to make the final roster, and I don’t view his initial absence as a negative, or one that impacts his trade value negatively. I was as surprised as you he wasn’t on the roster, but when I spoke to Chiarelli, I liked his response. He didn’t duck the question, instead he addressed it right away, and while we don’t know the entire scope of his conversation with RNH, I suspect Chiarelli used this more as a challenge to his young centre.
Nugent-Hopkins is a proud player, and I think this short-term snub will have more positive benefits than negative ones long-term.
Patrick Maroon makes his Oilers debut on a line with Mark Letestu and Finnish World Cup member Lauri Korpikoski. Maroon was fourth among Ducks forwards in PP TOI/game last year (2:10), and was fifth this season (1:25). He is hard to handle in front of the net and I’d expect to see him on the PP tonight. The Oilers are in desperate need of a net front presence, and only Jordan Eberle (six) and Benoit Pouliot (five, but he’s injured) have more PP goals than Maroon’s three. Hall and Leon Draisaitl also have three. Maroon should take Pouliot’s spot on the PP.
Cam Talbot starts again, and why not? He’s been excellent over his past four starts, stopping 133 of 139 shots (.957sv%). Laurent Brossoit will start tomorrow in Columbus.
- I didn’t expect Taylor Hall to be named to the original 16-man roster for Team Canada. I’d have had him on my list, but I knew he wouldn’t be on Team Canada’s. I don’t think it matters much in the long run. If Hall makes the final roster, which he should, then he could still be an impact player in the tournament, just like the fifth and sixth D-men named will make an impact.
I spoke to Team Canada GM Doug Armstrong after the announcement and asked how they view Hall.
“He is certainly in the mix of players we want to keep an eye on moving forward. You look at his point totals in the NHL — he is a dynamic skater and he went to the World Championships last year and played very well. Those situations are where you want to see players play well; when the lights are the brightest.
“As a manager who has worked for Team Canada in the past, I’ve learned you can either be a really good player in the playoffs or at the Worlds and both show how you play under pressure. Hall performed great at the Worlds. We look forward to watching more of him down the stretch,” said Armstrong.
Hall, just like RNH, should use this as motivation, and I fully expect him to play for Canada at the Worlds to show the management team he can play well “when the lights are the brightest”.
- Seven of the nine forwards named to Team Canada are playing centre regularly. Steven Stamkos prefers centre, but he’s played the wing a lot, while Jamie Benn has played mainly wing this year. Armstrong admitted they will be looking for some natural wingers to fill out the remaining four spots. He didn’t guarantee all four would be wingers, but Hall, Corey Perry, Brad Marchand and Mark Stone are the top wingers still available. I believe Hall can punch his ticket to the World Cup with another strong performance at the World Championships in May. Claude Giroux, Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly, Tyler Toffoli and Patrick Sharp are also in contention.
- Armstrong also laid out his plans for the remaining three spots on the blueline: “Mike (Babcock) and Joel (Quenneville) are very comfortable with left/right. Today it looks like we will go with four righties and three lefts,” Armstrong said. The debates over defence will likely be more intense than the forwards.
P.K. Subban, Alex Pietrangelo, Brent Burns, Brent Seabrook and Kris Letang will battle for the final two right spots. Subban and Burns would be my two choices, but Pietrangelo was on the 2014 Olympic team and it will be difficult to not take him. It is much easier to pick a player than it is to decide why you cut one.
On the left side teammates TJ Brodie and Mark Giordano will battle Jake Muzzin for the final spot. I think Brodie will have the inside track and he’d be my choice.
- I’ve heard and read a few rumblings recently suggesting the Oilers should look at signing Steven Stamkos if he is available July 1st. I like Stamkos, but signing him would be the wrong move for the Oilers.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Five Reasons Shayne Gotisbehere is objectively better than Connor McDavid
My favorite type of feverish national pride is vague and sometimes shameful sports-based feverish national pride. Why America over Canada? Because America is where I’m from, dammit, and we are better at hockey (sometimes)! Ooh, that’s right. Stings, doesn’t it? Getting owned like that? Better just delete your entire account now, Canada. Save yourself the pain later on.
Fact of the matter is that, in my experience, Canada beats America in two things: best Lay’s (thank you, All Dressed, for being there for me when I needed you most) and developing the most Claude Girouxs. They’ve developed one, and so far, we’ve developed zero. We’ve got them beat everywhere else. America over Canada, Shayne over Connor.
2. Dog of the “under” variety.
Connor McDavid grew up in the nucleus of the hockey world. Shayne Gostisbehere grew up about ten miles from a beach. The first time Connor McDavid stepped into a rink, he was probably skating circles around people. The first time Shayne Gostisbehere stepped into a rink, he was attending one of his sister’s figure skating practices. The closest ice to Connor McDavid was a quick walk down the block. The closest ice to Shayne Gostisbehere was on his neck, baby.
I think you get my drift. Shayne Gostisbehere wasn’t supposed to be a phenom. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go down at all. He was the darkest of dark horses. And yet here he is, all 75 South Floridian pounds of him, vying for the Calder.
3. The Streak™
Shayne Gostisbehere’s out here breaking league records for rookie defensemen and everyone’s like, yeah, well, who cares, here’s one single tweet on the matter. Then all of a sudden, Connor McDavid scores a pretty goal and everyone tosses Ghost aside! Like yesterday’s hockey garbage! Nay. We’re not gonna do that. I’m not gonna let it happen. We’re not gonna let the liberal Canadian media machine ignore Shayne Gostisbehere’s excellence anymore. I’m gonna start to inundate TSN with Ghost gifs and 140 character bits of analysis of his most spectacular plays. Someone has to do it.
4. Stats, or whatever.
I’m sure there are some weird, lesser known stats to support my thesis that Ghost is better. I am not a statistician, though, nor am I an analyst, so I will leave this point to your imagination. I don’t know, ask Charlie or something.
Speaking of lesser known stats, this one isn’t even really a contest, but I do think it is worth mentioning. Everyone knows that hair is an important facet of hockey success. Historically speaking, all great players have had great hair at one point or another in their careers (just google “Wayne Gretzky glamour shots” if you need proof). A deeper look at the manes of these players certainly demonstrates another way Ghost is utterly superior.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers win three consecutive games for only the third time this season, downing the Flyers 4-3 in OT. The Flyers have gone to OT in 11 of 31 home games. They’ve won four and lost seven.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid picks up two points. He has 21 points in 13 games versus the East, and he has 5-11-16 in nine games against Eastern teams not in the playoffs.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Patrick Maroon becomes the fourth active player to score in his first game with the Oilers. Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Luke Gazdic are the others.
Gazdic scored EV on his first shift, 2:21 into the game versus Winnipeg on October 1st, 2013.
RNH scored EV with 4:55 remaining in the third period to tie the game versus Pittsburgh on October 9th, 2011.
Eberle scored SH 1:24 into the third period when Oilers beat the Flames on October 7th, 2010.
They all scored on home ice, but Maroon will be the first active Oilers to score on the road in his first game.
Recently by Jason Gregor:
- Chiarelli piecing team together
- Davidson: An excellent signing
- Oilers will make some moves
- GDB 63.0: Davidson, a bright light in dark season
- GDB 62.0: Play with pride
- End of the line