THE 2015-16 OILERSNATION SEASON REVIEW

RoundTable

Last summer, I rounded up the writers to sit down and preview the 2015-16 season. While not one of the writers thought that the Oilers would make the playoffs, this year, there wasn’t anyone that thought they would end up in the league basement yet again. In this season review we’ll take a look at where the Oilers went wrong, what needs to happen over the summer, and whether or not the Oilers improved despite finishing in 29th place.

1) Were the Oilers as bad as their 29th place finish, or did key injuries derail the season beyond repair?

Wanye:

I think the Oilers were bad, but not 29th place bad. But at this stage 10 years in you are either playoffs or non playoffs. No chance the Oilers were going to make the playoffs this year even though I started the season as I always do: betting my idiot friend in Calgary $100 the Oilers would make the playoffs.

Jeanshorts:

Unfortunately you can’t separate the two, so I’ll say they were bad because of all the injuries. While ANY team in the league would have a hard time keeping pace after losing their top two centres, two of their top D, an impact bottom pairing defender and one of their top six wingers, it also exposed the lack of depth on the Oilers roster when they went into such a tailspin.

I contend that if the Oilers had a full roster for even 20 more games, an extra five wins would have been a completely reasonable expectation, which would have put them in the same territory as Buffalo and Arizona. That would have kept them in the playoff mix for a little longer, and would have been an 18 point improvement on last season.

Lowetide:

I would say injuries had a major impact on the team. They halved their GF-GA gap, and that is progress. Plenty of work to do, and injuries cannot be blamed for all of it (lack of roster balance was an issue) but it was a factor.

Robin Brownlee:

Injuries shaved some points from their final total for sure, but the same can be said of every team. I thought they’d be at 82 points, but even that total would have left them 21st-23rd overall. I wouldn’t call that being derailed because they weren’t good enough to contend for a playoff spot even healthy.

Jonathan Willis:

Injuries were certainly a factor, but a bigger one to me was the increase in parity at the bottom end of the NHL standings. Dead last in the NHL this year was 69 points, and there was an 18-point gap between last place overall and the last-place playoff team. A year ago last place was 54 points, and the gap between 30th and the lowest playoff team was 43 points. They’re probably better than 29th with even average health, and 29th this year is not the same as 29th a year ago was.

Matt Henderson:

The roster is better than the 29th placed finish. Fans hate hearing about the injury excuse, but losing Klefbom’s 25 minutes a night, three months of McDavid, and about four other key lengthy injuries absolutely affected this team. Still not a playoff team, but I’d like to believe a lot closer to one.

Chris the Intern:

I don’t want to be that guy to blame this season on injuries, but I am. I am not ashamed to say that we depend on a 19 year old kid to lead our team. We’ve all seen the magic that Connor can do on the ice. I’m not sure how many one goal games we lost without Connor, but I believe if we had him, we would have won a lot more. 

The argument that McDavid couldn’t do it all on his own is valid. So let’s look at the other dozen long-term injuries we had this season: Klefbom, Nuge, Yakupov, Eberle. With a healthy roster, this season WOULD have been different. But injuries are part of the game, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Baggedmilk:

Before the season started I said there was no way that the Oilers would finish last and I was right. Sure, it came down to a loser point in the last game, but I was still right and that’s all that matters. 

2) What did the Oilers do well in 2015-16?

Wanye:

Chiarelli made only good moves and made the team much tougher. Connor McDavid showed up as promised when the Oilers drafted him last July and delivered the goods.

Jeanshorts:

The biggest difference to me this year was the team didn’t just fold up shop the second they got down by a goal or two. We saw a lot of comebacks and a lot of one goal losses this year. A 2-1 loss is worth the same amount of points as a 5-2 loss, but I thought games were much more enjoyable to watch this year on a whole. They battled hard on most nights this year, which is something that couldn’t have been said the last couple of seasons.

Lowetide:

I think the goaltending improved, and they did have better structure when veterans were in place. The 5×5 offense looked good for much of the season and I do believe it will be a strength. In terms of high-danger scoring chances, the team was -73 this year, -168 a year ago. So, that is progress.

Robin Brownlee:

  • They tightened up their overall GF-GA differential from minus-85 to minus-42. 
  • Liked the improvement in their PK, although much of that credit goes to Cam Talbot. Went from 28th (76.7 percent) last season to 18th (81.1).
  • Made some modest improvements 5-on-5. Outscored 5-on-5 170-134 (minus-36) this season compared to 198-131 (minus-67) last season.

Jonathan Willis:

McDavid did McDavid-y things really well. Goaltending was solid. The trade deadline was handled rather well, I thought.

Matt Henderson:

Did they do something well? They kept secrets about injuries and their timelines very well. Not a lot of positives after that.

Chris the Intern:

On the ice? Not a whole lot (beside’s Connor McDavid). Off the ice, management did some great things as far as a transition year goes. They locked in the best goalie the Oilers have had in years for three more. They brought in the dark horse, Pat Maroon, for not a whole lot in return. Along with acquiring Zack Kassian and Adam Pardy which I still think are good moves.

Baggedmilk:

The Oilers improved their goal differential by 40 goals, which is no small feat. Were they still bad? Of course, but they didn’t get blown out as often as they had in the past and that in itself is a win. The team looked like they’ve had the best structure I’ve seen in years and I’m looking forward to seeing what McLellan can do in year two.

3) What did the Oilers do poorly in 2015-16?

Wanye:

Play competitive ice hockey on a night to night basis. Way too many nights off again this season.

Jeanshorts:

Obviously the power play was a disaster more often than not this year. And they were the fifth worst team in the league in shots against per game, and if it weren’t for the MVP play of Cam Talbot they probably would have had an even worse season than they already did. Shoring up the defence in the summer should help BOTH of these things next season.

Lowetide:

The major issue for me was beginning the season without balance. Some of the things that went sideways were predictable—Nikita Nikitin has some back issues and that is hurting his mobility, Andrew Ference has lost a step and that does happen as a player ages—and the team clearly decided to see if they could cobble together a season with this defense. That was a poor decision for 2015-16, but a good one for 2016-17.

Robin Brownlee:

  • Still not difficult enough to play against in terms of consistent physical effort.
  • Still too many lapses in defensive coverage and turnovers
  • Power play was a disappointment for me, given McLellan’s special teams record in San Jose. Marginal improvement to 18.1 per cent from 17.7, but PP was too often a non-factor.
  • Still atrocious on the road.  Last in the NHL at 12-23-6 for 30 points (29 last season).

Jonathan Willis:

The power play wasn’t very good, particularly without McDavid. The penalty kill got bailed out by the goalie but really wasn’t all that good. The bottom-six was mostly bad. The Hall line was really good and then fell apart over the last 40 games. The defence was mostly bad throughout.

Matt Henderson:

Pick anything. They weren’t good enough in any aspect of the game that matters. They didn’t score enough, save enough goals, produce on the PP, weren’t overly physical, couldn’t stay healthy. The list goes on.

Chris the Intern:

I didn’t like how they managed Laurent Brossoit at the end of the season. I think he should have stayed down in Bakersfield instead of sitting on the bench, losing confidence in Edmonton. This, along with their general play on the ice altogether. Their special teams got nowhere, and well their defence is…you know.

Baggedmilk:

I don’t understand the leash that some players get over other guys on the team. To me, it looked like some guys would make mistakes over and over and never really get the same pee pee slap as some of their teammates. I also don’t understand why Justin Schultz played so many minutes despite not deserving them, and I also don’t understand how the power play sucked so bad considering the forwards they had out there.

4) Many people have guessed at which core member(s) will be moved in the summer. Do you believe someone will be moved? If yes, who is your most likely candidate to be moved?

Wanye:

I think Chiarelli is about to show everyone why he was voted “most likely to succeed” at GM school. I think there will be a series of moves and a whole bunch of new players come fall.

Jeanshorts:

Chiarelli dropped a quote the other day that basically said there is a way to go where they improve the defence without having to give up a roster player. If he somehow manages to pull that off I will personally build the 500 foot statue outside Rogers Arena (can we come up with a cool nickname for this place?).

HOWEVER, I don’t think that’s likely to happen. I would guess that Eberle is the most likely to be moved; he’s a winger which is an easier position to replace than a top six centre, he’s a proven 60+ point player and I feel like his “clutch” mystique from all those World Junior tournaments still carries come cache around the league. I doubt a straight across Eberle for whoever nets you a top three defender, but I would think he’d be a pretty desirable centrepiece of a trade.

Lowetide:

I do think someone will go, and will guess Jordan Eberle. That said, remember I said a guess because that is what it is. A major item in who is leaving comes from the team Edmonton has targeted and their ask. Peter Chiarelli’s job is to find the best possible defenseman for an acceptable price. I expect it will be Eberle.

Robin Brownlee:

Yes, guaranteed.  Taylor Hall would bring the best return but I’d be hesitant to move him unless the deal included getting a bonafide first-pairing right-shot D-man in his prime. That deal would have to include a name most hockey people would rank among the top-20 NHL D-men. For me, Eberle is the other prime candidate, although the return would be less and there won’t be much left on the right side without him.

Jonathan Willis:

Peter Chiarelli did seem to telegraph that at his press conference, so I’d say yes, with the exact name based on return. Jordan Eberle is the most likely player to depart, but it may be that Edmonton can’t land the defenceman it wants without moving a centre. In my view, Taylor Hall only goes in the event that an elite defender becomes available.

Matt Henderson:

I think Eberle gets moved. I fear Nuge gets moved. I can’t even entertain the thought of Hall moving.

Chris the Intern:

I don’t think we will be seeing Yakupov or Eberle come training camp. As much as I hate to say it cause I love them dearly, I think they’re the ones to go. As we’ve said over and over again though, no one is safe. Taylor Hall could potentially be moved, along with Oscar Klefbom or Brandon Davidson in order to get a solid top pairing defenceman.

Baggedmilk:

I think Eberle is gone and I fear that Nuge will be gone too despite the importance of having depth at centre. Paul Maurice one said that in an ideal world he would have 12 centres on his team because of versatility. Remember, a centreman can play wing much easier than a winger playing centre. See: Hall, Taylor – Smyth, Ryan – Pouliot, Benoit – Hendricks, Matt. Depth at centre is hugely important. 

5) What did you think of Cam Talbot’s first season as an NHL starter?

Wanye:

Good? OK? It’s so hard to tell with this defensive corps. He seems good but I have been tricked before.

Jeanshorts:

I was confident he’d be really solid this year, but he managed to exceed all of my expectations. Obviously he got off to a bit of a slow start, but then rose like a Phoenix from the ashes and has looked exactly like the goalie the Oilers have needed for 3 or 4 seasons now.

Lowetide:

I thought he played well, but during the early part of the year had some issues—and he needs to clean that up this coming fall. Edmonton needs to contend for a playoff spot deep into the year, and part of that will be getting a few wins via their goalie stealing a win.

Robin Brownlee:

I thought he was terrific, especially in the second half of the season.

Jonathan Willis:

Since Dwayne Roloson left town, Edmonton has had two legitimate starting goaltenders: Devan Dubnyk in 2013 and Cam Talbot this year. Talbot struggled early, but even so it’s hard to look at that as anything other than a success.

Matt Henderson:

Glad it ended stronger than it started. I thought as a whole it was good. He became a reliable stopper by the end.

Chris the Intern:

With the history the Oilers have in terrible goaltenders, I thought that when Cam Talbot lost it in November and Nilsson took the reins, was pretty much Talbot’s hammer on the nail. The way he bounced back from that bad month is absolutely incredible. From there, his foot was on the pedal and he never took it off. Very proud of him!

Baggedmilk:

Apart from the early struggles Talbot was rock solid throughout the rest of the year. I don’t remember who tweeted it out, but there was a graphic that showed Talbot had the best save percentage of any goaltender that played 40+ games since 1982. I think Chiarelli found a winner.

6) Which Bakersfield call-up impressed you most this season? Was there anyone that you thought may get recalled but did not?

Wanye:

Nurse is a beast. I can’t wait for him to add 45 pounds of additional muscle and start whooping people on the reg.

Jeanshorts:

Jordan Osterle was an incredibly pleasant surprise this season. I don’t think he’ll make the team out of camp next year but he’ll definitely be on the bubble to be one of the first call-ups when half the defence goes down again. He’s looked good on the bottom pair and he can actually get a shot through to the net from the point!

I thought Jujhar Khaira would get another chance late in the season, but he was more valuable in Bakersfield for the Condor’s playoff push. I can see him playing a decent amount of games in the NHL next season depending on how the summer and training camp goes. I think there’s a legit player in there.

Lowetide:

If we are excluding Leon Draisaitl, Darnell Nurse and Iiro Pakarinen, I will go with Jordan Oesterle over Jujhar Khaira in a close race. I was impressed with the performance of each of the callups this year, for me they all seemed to step in and add to what was here. That hasn’t happened a lot in past seasons (imo). I was surprised David Musil did not receive a call. He played well last season and is waiver eligible this fall. It may indicate the Oilers prefer other options moving forward (like Oesterle).

Robin Brownlee:

Darnell Nurse. Only spent six games in Bakersfield and likely could have used more, but, overall, he impressed me. Still a lot of rough edges to knock off, but I like his physical edge and his willingness to compete. Struggled at times and looked in over his head, but he didn’t make the call-up, the Oilers did.

Jonathan Willis:

Leon Draisaitl is the obvious one, if we can really call him a call-up. If not, I’d say it was a tie between Jujhar Khaira and Jordan Oesterle. Oesterle is a better player than I expected; I knew he could skate but his ability to support the attack was a surprise to me and he wasn’t nearly as bad defensively as I had been expecting based on previous looks. He’s developed nicely in the AHL. Kharia, meanwhile, finally showed some offence, which is basically the only item holding him back from an NHL career.

Matt Henderson:

I thought Miller might have had a chance to come up. I was most impressed with Oesterle as a call up. He was playing huge minutes because he was the only one who could move the puck. People will remember that.

Chris the Intern:

I think Jordan Oesterle is the easy choice here. He moves the puck out of the zone with so much confidence you’d think he’d been in the NHL this whole time. If I had to choose someone else, it’d be Iro Pakarinen. He started the year in Bakersfield but got called up with all the initial injuries. He played to stay, got first-line minutes (whether he deserved them or not), and played a tough, gritty game. 

Baggedmilk:

I liked what I saw from JJ Khaira. The big man has some size, will throw his weight around, and seems to be finding a little bit of touch. If he can work on his offense a little bit than he may be able to fill an important role in the bottom size, at some point. I also liked what I saw from Jordan Oesterle after Brandon Davidson went down. I had zero expectations for Oesterle and he showed very well in his late season call up. 

7) Are there any potential UFAs that intrigue you as a potential fit for the Oilers? If so, who and why might they work?

Wanye:

I can’t even think about this yet. Ten years out of the playoffs is still front and centre in my brain cortex at the moment.

Jeanshorts:

Obviously the most intriguing name is Steve Stamkos, but I don’t see a legitimate scenario where the Oilers actually sign him. The Oilers are looking for a backup goalie and a name that really stands out to me is Chad “Not Ocho Cinco” Johnson. He’s put up really solid numbers as the main man in Buffalo this season, which is a feat in itself. And two seasons prior, as Tuukka Rask’s backup he posted even better numbers. Coming off a $1.3 million dollar contract this year I think he’d be a reasonably priced, safe signing to backup Talbot next season.

Lowetide:

I really like Jason Demers in Dallas, for me he has a lot of what Edmonton needs. I also like Dan Boyle, who would be a perfect fit if he was 10 years younger, but the Oilers are probably looking longer term. Milan Lucic has always been a favorite, I don’t think this team needs him, but suspect there is interest. David Backes would be a fantastic addition.

Robin Brownlee:

I think you have to at least pick up the phone and have a chat with David Backes, Milan Lucic and maybe Keith Yandle. Don’t see a UFA defenceman that fits the top-end, first-pairing guy the Oilers need. Lucic, if he doesn’t re-sign with LA, fits the size-with-skill type of player Chiarelli prefers and they have ties back to Boston.

Jonathan Willis:

There is a long list, so I’ll give you the short version. Edmonton needs help on the right side defensively, which makes Jason Demers interesting. It needs right-shooting wingers generally, which makes Radim Vrbata, Chris Stewart, P-A Parenteau, Lee Stempniak, Brad Boyes and perhaps even David Perron or Teddy Purcell intriguing. It needs a third-line centre, with David Backes a fascinating if unlikely option there. That’s nine possibilities; I could probably get to 20 or 25 potential fits depending on what else happens this summer.

Matt Henderson:

Demers at D. Backes at C. Lucic for the right price. Stamkos for one year at a reduced rate just for fun.

Chris the Intern:

Honestly not any that I can think of right now, I’ve been in Connor McDavid mode for 15 months and have trouble thinking about anyone else but him. Jeanshorts has said this before and I’m very intrigued by it. We should start looking at more college players to sign instead of focussing so much more on drafting players, because they are so much more developed at 22 than 17/18. I’m interested to start looking into college free agents this summer and see what the pool is like.

Baggedmilk:

If the Oilers are going to trade Jordan Eberle I could see Chiarelli taking a run at Kyle Okposo. I also see Chiarelli taking a shot at Lucic, which I would love except for how much it would likely cost to come play here. If the Oilers move Nuge I’d like to see them kick the tires on David Backes to see what he would want to come here and add some veteran leadership to a team that lacks it. 

8) Are there any players that were pleasant surprises for you? Anyone that disappointed you?

Wanye:

Patty Maroon. This guy could be a fan fave for years to come and the fact Chiarelli made the Ducks pay 25% of his salary is high-larious! I plead the fifth for who disappointed in a year of disappointments.

Jeanshorts:

Though he played less than 20 games Patrick Maroon was a damn revelation! A big man who’ll gladly stand up for his teammates, and has the hands to tap home perfect passes from Connor McDavid? MORE PLEASE!
I wouldn’t say he personally disappointed me, but I was really looking forward to Oscar Klefbom making even more strides toward become an impact, top 4 D-man. He was well on his way until that damn staph infection ruined everything! I think he’ll be better than ever next year and continue to progress, but I can’t help but think of the impact he would have had on the team had he stayed healthy for most of the season.

Lowetide:

Leon Draisaitl really stepped up, I was so impressed with him. Patrick Maroon after the deadline was an impact player. I liked Iiro Pakarinen too, although one wonders if there is enough offense there. All of that fades when we begin discussion of Brandon Davidson, who was absolutely a revelation. From fringe defender to outstanding value contract, he took one giant step as an NHL player.

Robin Brownlee:

Jordan Oesterle was a pleasant surprise, so was Leon Draisaitl in the first half of the season. Didn’t see the strides I’d hoped for from Griffin Reinhart. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had a tough season.

Jonathan Willis:

In our preseason round table I predicted Leon Draisaitl would take a scoring job and run with it, but I didn’t see him being this good; even with the end-of-year slump he had a good season. Somehow Connor McDavid managed to be better than expected. Brandon Davidson had a phenomenal year. I was pleased, but not surprised, to see Teddy Purcell bounce back. 

I expected more from Mark Letestu at five-on-five, so that was a disappointment. Justin Schultz couldn’t score on the power play, and I had thought he was going to have a good year. The lack of progress from Nail Yakupov was disconcerting. I was also hoping for more from Darnell Nurse, but that’s probably less to do with him and more to do with my own expectations being a bit too high.

Matt Henderson:

Davidson blew me away with how good he was. Absolutely blew me away. Nobody was more of a surprise for me. Disappointed? Schultz was much worse than even I expected. Fayne struggled a lot early as well.

Chris the Intern:

Darnell Nurse is the first guy to come to mind when I think of disappointment. Granted he was thrown in the NHL when he wasn’t ready and it wasn’t his fault. He needs to start the year in Bakersfield next year as it was very apparent he was struggling all season. 

We all know what kind of player Matt Hendricks is and has been for us, but this year he really stood out to me in a great way. He doesn’t put up great points but for the year we have, finishing +2 I think is pretty impressive for a bottom six player. It was really apparent that he was missing when he was out on the IR. The guy brings so much energy to the team, and you can always count on him to stand up for guys when needed, and throw his body around.

Baggedmilk:

He was only here for a short time but we all had a good time cheering for Pat Maroon. The guy is a loveable giant that scored some big goals down the stretch and was always willing to defend his teammates. I love the guy and hope that he can build off his finish and come back for a strong 2016-17 campaign.

I have to say that I was disappointed with Justin Schultz in every way possible. I thought that playing for a solid coach like Todd McLellan would have improved his game but it didnt… at all. I was also disappointed that I didn’t get to see Nail Yakupov play more games with Connor McDavid after they both came back from injury. There was something there with ConYak and we never really got to see much more of it.

9) How would you grade Todd McLellan’s first year as the Oilers head coach? Where did he succeed? Where can he improve?

Wanye:

Thank god Todd McLellan is behind the Oilers bench. More than any other Oilers Coach or Management type in years past I actually think this guy knows more about what it means to be an Oiler than most of the Oilers. In Todd I trust across the board. Chia needs to get him some more committed players and this guy will lead us back to the playoffs I am certain of it.

Jeanshorts:

I’d give him a solid B. Like pretty much every coach before him he didn’t have the worlds best roster to work with. But there were quite a few decisions that I still don’t really understand. Letestu got way too much power play time, and once again Justin Schultz was gifted way too many minutes a night for no apparent reason. We’ve all said our piece about Yakupov already but I feel like he could have been utilized better.

I think he succeeded in communicating, both with the players and the media. And while it’s obviously not completely on him the special teams (mostly the power play) clearly need to be tweaked next year.

Lowetide:

I thought he had a good season, in several areas. Many of the young players (Davidson, Leon) spiked under him and the veterans (Hall, Pouliot, Eberle) delivered solid production. He had a more difficult time sussing out the defense, but in fairness there wasn’t a lot to work with there. I also think he was outstanding with the media, calling out Corsi while introducing something called Shot Volume—the exact same thing! He is a very smart man, a veteran coach and a big get for the Oilers imo. 

Like all coaches, I think he got maybe a little stubborn on some players. Lauri Korpikoski was not a Shot Volume monster, and Darnell Nurse struggled mightily before McLellan placed him in a less stressful slot in the order. I think coaches are always going to be criticized for this kind of thing, partly because they may not be the ones pulling the strings in terms of roster makeup and deployment.

Robin Brownlee:

I’d give him a C-plus. Never used injuries as an excuse even though they were a factor.  Liked his honest assessments of team and player performances.  There’s always a feeling out process with a new coach and I thought McLellan handled the transition well. When the player personnel at his disposal improves, so will he. No doubt about that, given his track record in San Jose.

Jonathan Willis:

B-. The team was in games for the most part, and the number of serious embarrassments – both big losses and long-term losing streaks – were kept to a minimum. The team never seemed to crash and burn the way past editions have, though the overall results weren’t a lot better. On the improvement side of things, the penalty kill needs to allow fewer shots, the power play needs to be more effective and puck possession needs to improve dramatically at five-on-five. Also, less Lauri Korpikoski would be great.

Matt Henderson:

C+. His Power Play was not effective and didn’t adjust enough to take advantage of what he had available. He also played Korpikoski way too much and in situations that mattered when he bled chances against. I’ll say this, it’s hard to show well with so many injuries.

Chris the Intern:

It’s tough to grade a guy when all the past coaches have C’s & D’s. So maybe a B for McLellan? It’s nice having a coach in Edmonton that is so easy to talk to and straight forward with the media. He’s brought in a lot of ideas (from reading practice recaps) that I feel a lot of guys wouldn’t think of. Granted he didn’t have MUCH to work with due to our defence roster and injuries, I still kind of wish he would have found a way to get our powerplay going. Always room for improvement.

Baggedmilk:

I think Todd McLellan did a lot of the things we expected him to apart from improve the power play. The Oilers improved in several major categories (the bar was set extremely low) and I think they played with a much better structure than we’ve seen before. The Oilers also didn’t have that “lay down and die” look about them which was prominent in the Eakins era. 

10) Apart from upgrading the defense are there any other areas of need for Peter Chiarelli to address during the offseason?

Wanye:

Character and honour. If you don’t want to be an Oiler you need to go regardless of your skill level. And 4 D would be just great.

Jeanshorts:

I’d like to see a third line that can contribute more offence. I know a lot of people seem adverse to the idea of having three lines that can score, and I agree that it’s probably not the best idea to have three lines playing essentially the same type of game, but if they could find a way to have guys with good possession numbers, who are responsible defensively but are also a threat to score on any given shift that would be amazing. 30-35 points per player on the third line would be ideal, and I don’t think that’s too unreasonable.

Lowetide:

I would say he needs two right-handed defensemen, a right-handed two-way center who can play third line or better, a Pisani-type to replace Korpikoski, a strong backup goaltender option, a watershed draft devoted to procuring forwards, and an extremely active free-agent signing season—specifically CHL, College and Euro free agents.

Robin Brownlee:

The Oilers finished 29th. There isn’t any area Chiarelli doesn’t need to improve if he can.

Jonathan Willis:

The right side of the roster needs help. If Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Draisaitl aren’t both playing centre, though, the biggest need may be a quality third line pivot, ideally a right shooter who can help on the power play and handle a two-way role at even-strength. A backup goalie should be added as well.

Matt Henderson:

I very passionately believe that the defensemen this team is missing are affecting every aspect of the game. No offensive defensemen mean the Forwards aren’t getting the puck enough. Nobody who can play 25 mins against top opposition means weakness in the own zone too. Fixing the D will lead to more goals for and less against. We won’t know what this group can do without two quality defenders.

Chris the Intern:

We talked a little bit about this in the office, and the only thing I can think of is maybe staff and people behind the scenes that the public doesn’t really know about. This may be a dumb accusation but would a completely different training/medical staff have affected all the injuries we had this season? I think only he knows that, so I’m interested in seeing any behind-the-scene staff changes he may or may not make.

Baggedmilk:

Defense is obviously the biggest hole on the roster, but I think he also needs to work on the third line. It would be nice if the third line was able to generate a little bit more offense, and help contribute more up ice. That is more nitpicking than anything since everyone knows that defense is the major issue around here. 

  • DannyGallivan

    Lots has changed that brings hope for next year:
    1) a coach with more than 1 year behind the bench = consistent messaging
    2) players that will have more experience/muscle next year e.g. McD, Nurse, Khaira, Drai, Oesterle, Reinhart, Davidson
    3) fewer injuries
    4) top 3 draft pick
    5) trade for at least one top 2 RH D
    6) dead weight gone e.g. Nikitin, Ference (retire), Schultz

    It will be a very interesting off season

  • IronX

    Wow, that covers all the excuse dictionary A to Z.

    So it sounds like a duck, walks like a duck, looks like a duck but it’s not a duck.

    It doesn’t matter, at all, if this team improved a little bit and it’s still 29th. 29th with all this talent is inexcusable, having holes and not use the talent to fill them, inexcusable. Despite injuries, we have 4 FIRST overalls!!! 4!

    On a related topic…. The more I watch playoff hockey the more I see this team needs to make changes.

    Does anybody really see Eberle not getting physically and life threatening injured with his whimpy uncommitted kind of play ? You really see the core leading us to the cup?

    29th is 29th, last year we were 28 so there’s that

    • It doesn’t matter how many first overall picks the Oilers have if the defenseman can’t get them the puck.

      I also think you missed the point about where the Oilers improved, or you just didn’t read the article. No one was cheering for 29th place and pretty much everyone thinks Eberle will go.

      • IronX

        It does matter how many you have: you trade one or two for the defender you need.

        I did miss the point about where the oilers improved, they didn’t…. They’re 29th , they were 28 last year.

        Unless you guys are counting “visually improved “; which is cute.

        Happy Friday nation

        • You’re like the guy that would try to disprove gravity so there’s no point in trying to show you numbers that prove our point. 29th place is horrible. No argument there. But I think you forget how bad last year’s team was.

          • camdog

            Let me guess you were one of the guys defending Mact, Eakins and Scrivens to start last season? The Oilers didn’t have an NHL goalie last season, they didn’t have a NHL coach, they didn’t have an NHL GM, they didn’t have a generational talent, we are setting the bar incredibly low here…

          • Nope. Hated most of MacT’s moves, thought Eakins was garbage, and wasn’t surprised when Scrivens was shipped out. If you’re asking the question, “have the Oilers improved over last year” then the answer is yes regardless of how minor that improvement may be. Either you missed the point or you don’t understand how math works.

          • IronX

            Bagged,

            Love your articles, but you are defending the indefensible…

            Some numbers show small improvements, sure…. The point is, it doesn’t matter!

            Our economy is showing some slight improvements, yes…. It doesn’t matter! if the price of oil is still in the tank and thousands of people are losing their job, who cares if there are some numbers trending in the right direction.

            I don’t discuss gravity, as you think I would… And…. On that note, 29 is worse than 28 so I rest my case.

          • Chopsucky

            If you look at the spread between last place and last playoff spot you can easily see that 28 last year and 29 this year are not even comparable.

            @baggedmilk……don’t waste your time.

          • The Oilers had 70 points this year and 62 last year. This year’s point total would have put them in 27th last season. They are better than they were last year. Good enough? Hell no. Better. Definitely.

          • Shameless Plugger

            “Trying to show numbers that prove a point”. The team last year was bad, atrocious to be honest. But how do you work out the “numbers” where 29th is better than 28th?

    • DannyGallivan

      No Oiler fan is happy about 29th and I wasn’t reflecting on this past season i.e. making excuses for 29th. I was reflecting on next year and reasons to be optimistic. 2-10 seasons ago there wasn’t. Terrible GM, coaching instability, inexperienced players – the list goes on.

      Chia will have been with the team 1 year on April 24 and TMac one year on May 19. Chia now has a handle on what we do and don’t have and I expect major change will happen this summer. For myself, I am looking forward to what I believe will be an active off-season.

      Or, we can just cry about another wasted season.

  • madjam

    Upsizing of the Oiler roster seems to be where Chia is headed . Hopkins , Eberle and Yak we can’t win with basically , and have proved they are not difference makers in a strong and well sized physical Western Conference . I expect all 3 and perhaps Pouliot will be dealt this summer for upsizing . Chia dealt Pouliot once before . We need bigger forwards with more skill than Maroon and Kassian can offer if we hope to be more competitive next year .

    • Untrue. David Krejci and Nuge are the exact same size and Chiarelli won with him. I don’t think Nuge is going anywhere. Learn to value depth at centre. ?

      I do agree about the other two though. I think they’ll be gone.

        • He had one bad year and no one is arguing that. It’s just funny how quickly Oilers fans bring out the knives. I bet I could go through your comment history and find a bunch of places where you fluffed him last season. Players have down years, dude.

          As for injury prone, he’s only missed a handful of games over the past three years (this season excluded) so that’s pure conjecture.

          • madjam

            I . like most , have been blaming the supporting cast around the youthful core for us remaining a cellar club for years . This year it became more evident that they are the bulk of the problem playing in a very physical Western Conference . The core has to be redone firstly to fit the skills of our new core around McDavid , Draisaitl and probably one of Mathews or the two Finns . We also need retooling on defence as well , which can be done effectively with trading most of that underachieving and generally soft young core . Nuge is not what one would call gritty or physical. What success has Hall, Eberle , Yakupov and or Hopkins bought us in four years hugging the basement of league ?

  • Unclemomma.com

    Well after watching the beginning of the playoffs, and seeing all the abuse being given and taken, to be honest,I don’t even think there are very many “NHL playoff players” here. This is going to hurt for a long time.

    Also, before they move Hopkins, I would want to see Leon for another full year. He was very impressive. Then he was very non-impressive.

  • BTW I love these comments. In the pre-season roundtable we were crucified for “being too negative” and saying the Oilers would miss the playoffs. Now the season wrap up is turning into the opposite. Hilarious!

    • TsuDhoNimh

      OFDTO

      Reason #1 why I rarely read comments on ON anymore. Proves the Dunning-Krueger theory, those that know the least proclaim their point the loudest.

    • '68 Fire Chicken

      Not good at sales ? You sell the hope first. New season, excited fans, McD….

      And you burst our bubble before it starts. You proclaim no playoffs but maybe close.

      Then the sesason is worse than even you predicted.

      And your selling hope when no one wants to buy. Seasons over. We failed. Another terrible year. Not many people get ezcited about a product that got bettwr but is still at the very bottom of rankings.

      Maybe try it the other way around next year ?

  • McRaj

    When I am bored at work, I usually do some random statistical analysis, and yesterday I wanted to see how Hall, Nuge, and Eberle fare against the West. Here is a following career break-down of each for West vs East points per game.

    Hall: East – 0.83, West – 0.87

    Eberle: East – 0.85, West – 0.75

    Nuge: East – 0.85, West – 0.65.

    To me this proves that Eberle and Nuge would be better suited in the East. After watching the LA – San Jose game last night, one cannot reasonably argue that Nuge and Eberle would survive the west play-offs. As a comprable, Okposo averages 0.84ppg for his career vs the West.

  • McRaj

    Before I make my point, I will say that I love Nuge and always will. I was a huge supporter of his and mistakingly once even thought he would be one of the faces of the league and his passing was on par with Sidney. However, I believe that we at Oilers Nation over-value Nuge too much. Krejci is a much more proven and established player than Nuge, regardless if they are the same size or not.

    Secondly, Nuge is no where near the caliber of the top-end two way players. His faceoff percentage is a career 43, he has started 58% of his career starts in the o-zone and has never managed more than 1.6 defensive point shares for a season. He averages about a minute per game on the penalty kill, and has never received a Selke vote. Does he face top competition? Yes he does but that does not tell me he is an incredible two-way player. Does he have the ability to become one? Yes he does. But as of right now he is a powerplay wizard but a 2nd line good two-way center.

  • nunyour

    What’s better than small skilled players,big skilled players. I would be using eberle and nuge to fix the defence and building around macdavid,leon,maroon,hall with a couple ufa’s,backes would be on the top of the list.

  • CMG30

    No question that the Oil improved slightly this season. But frankly, when the bar for improvement was playing meaningful games in December, it’s almost impossible for them not to stumble into some progression.

    As covered in the article, the twin culprits for this season of suck were the lack of a complete team and injuries. Sadly, this could have been said after last season, or the one before that or the one before that…

    IMHO, the biggest injury impact was losing Klefbom. In a position where the Oil have been laughably weak, basically since Pronger, losing Klef for 2/3rds of the season was a body blow to this team. Losing Nuge and MacDavid were huge too, (The loss of Nuge likely a big factor in Drisitle being so worn out at the tail end of the season), but the Oil were still able to keep 2 competent centers going. Yay Depth!!!

    Final point: I’m with Henderson with his belief that the lack of top defensemen is impacting this team in all aspects. Be it breaking up the cycle, getting the puck to the forwards, keeping it in the zone, the weak PP or the PK, top end defensemen are the spoon that stirs the drink. I just hope that in Chirelli’s upcoming summer of miracles that he doesn’t raid the forward corps so badly that there’s no one left to pass the puck up to…

  • MorningOwl

    Just heard Elliot Freedman on the radio and he is connecting Dennis Wideman to Edmonton. Makes sense – Flames retain some salary to clear a spot for the long list of defensive depth waiting to get it, Edmonton gets a cap friendly defender that, while “OK” in his own end, can still put up a ton of points, and get the first pass off. Not to mention lots of leadership. Wideman would automatically be either #2 or #3 defendr in Edmonton and provide stability and mentoring for Nurse.

    I know what your responses will be, but it makes more sense than one might think at first blush, plus, don’t even start on the “bad guy” drama, because bringing in Kassian demonstrates that some baggage is not an issue if the player ticks the right boxes.

    my Prediction for NEXT season, based on management changes and coaching, is that Oilers climb to a respectable 20th in the league! Yay!

    • Cap friendly? 5.25 Million. He is the Flames version of Justin Schultz. we dont need to replace him with a more expensive version. I live down south and I am sure Flames fans would love to dump him on Edmonton, but dumb, dumber, and dumbest aren’t in charge any more (Or so they keep telling us)

      Caught thyat on the Fan 960 in Calgary. Thats why my double double is spewed all over the dashboard.

      • Ed in Edmonton 1

        Did you miss the point about the Phlemgs retaining some salary??

        If the Oil can get him for say $3m and give up little in return, it might makes sense. Don’t know what the cap situation might be in cowtown, but they do need to get the likes of Manahan and Geudreau done and doesn’t Gio’s new contract kick in?

      • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

        Jeffoftheday said that it would be cap friendly if Calgary retained salary. If they ate a 1/3 or 1/4 of his salary I’d take him.
        Don’t compare him to Schultz. He is a point producer and knows how to run a power play, unlike Schultz.

    • Unclemomma.com

      Don’t go anywhere near Dennis the menace. Nowhere near. All he’s gonna teach, is how to be overrated and overpaid. You keep that boy down there with the cattle.

    • IronX

      When everyone but one team had more than 70 points , that’s correct, the oil is not better.

      Unless what you are saying is that EVERYONE improved, which is a fair argument but too long of a blog for that matter.

      So the Oilers are the equivalent of our kids in school: it’s not about winning, it’s about participating. Good job Oilers! Everyone improved but so did you, pick up your ribbon at the door.

      • I’m missing the part where I said the Oilers were even close to the ballpark of being good enough? I’ve never said that. I’m only saying they’ve improved. You keep implying like I think the Oilers are good or something – they’re not.

        Ask yourself these questions…

        Did they Oilers get more wins this year? Yes.
        Did the goal differential get better? Yes.
        Did they score more goals than last year? Yes.
        Did their special teams improve? Surprisingly yes.
        Did they take more shots on net? Yes.
        Did they allow fewer shots on net? Yes.
        Did they do all of that despite major losses to the roster? Yes.

        • IronX

          Ok fair enough. The Oilers improved.

          At this rate if nobody else improves and they can keep the 8 point improvement per year, we will be in play offs in 3 to 4 years.

          I’m sorry but despite the improvement, that makes me very sad.

          Happy weekend everyone, some good hockey games going on

        • Oil City Roller

          Does position in the standings determine making the playoffs? Yes. Do other metrics determine making the playoffs? No. Did the Oilers move up in the standings? No. Did the Oilers move down in the standings? Yes. Is 29th worse than 28th? Yes.

          I can play too!

          • IronX

            I agree 100% but our good bloggers and some fans need to believe the oilers improved and they clearly can do this all day.

            I conceded the oilers improved…. I will sustain it doesn’t matter for f all.

          • CMG30

            I ran a marathon last year. It took me 2 hours to finish. I came in 50th. This year I ran it again in 1 hour but I came in 51st so by applying your logic I guess I got worse as a runner.

          • IronX

            You cannot run a marathon in 2 hours.
            A marathon is 42.2 kms, the world record is 2:06

            If you are going to make a point by lying to us at least do some research.

            If your metaphor was accurate though, you were better as a runner, and good for you, but you weren’t better than your competition: do the oilers play to be better hockey players every year or do they play to win the SC? ? ?

            I usually like your comments, but come on….

          • GK1980

            I have run my fare share of marathons and the guy says he did it in one hour, clearly he has NEVER run a marathon. Anyways, the season was another disgusting display of hockey.

            A few games against the caps and Blackhawks early in the year actually had me believing. They lost both games but easily could have won both. They outshot and outplayed both teams. But then reality set in and the losses began to pile up.

            What is the one solution this team needs? Is it a new player? New attitude? What is the single best move this team could do to start beating the Coyotes?

          • Intermission

            I want to play too!

            Was the best rookie and arguably top 10 players in the league injured for 3 months? Yes

            Were our two best D men in Klefbom and Davidson injured for an extended period of time? Yes

            Was Nuge, Eberle, Pouliot all out for over a month each? Yes

            YAY this is fun

        • hootoil

          The Oilers got more wins,more goals,more shots etc.in 2015/16.That is GREAT! That must be the reason for Ticket Increases for 2016/17? Unfortunately for the Oilers – there are not 90 teams in the NHL.29th would put them in the top 1/3. The reality of most businesses is to give out the positives and “forget the negative.” (This is from an old tune.) The Oilers were able to come second last “despite major losses to the roster.” REALLY! That is Oiler reasoning to make themselves more costly to view.

    • OTOF2

      Unfortunately the Oilers are competing against others teams and not themselves? Your comment suggests otherwise. You must improve relative to your competition to make actual progress.

  • You just got LITT up!

    Me again! I’m with ironx on this one. Maybe we can petition the nhl and request that they change entry into the playoffs to be determined by shots on net? That way the oilers would not be the 29th ranked team out of 30. Hahahah. I love this website.

    • IronX

      At this rate I wouldn’t be surprised if the NHL looks at what they do in soccer leagues: you are last, you are out; and the champion of minor leagues goes to the NHL.

      How well would the Oilers do in the AHL?

  • Tikkanese

    Biggest dissapointment this year? Has to be the Oilers’ goal song. It was so awful that it had to have worked on a subconscious level to make the Oilers not want to score.

    • Seanaconda

      Idk stadium love was pretty appropriate for the last year in the collesium not my favorite song or even my favorite metric song but it’s our last year at our stadium. Can see why it was chosen.

  • Speed Junky

    if they can stay healthy then 94 pts next season

    by to low producers.

    u 2 yak

    bring in more Maroon like players.

    keep Nuge and Ebs. they are great players.

    we need 3 centers.

    our D is growing. but young.

    97 is the King

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    7 more wins and we also played in a ton of 1 goal games despite all the injuries. I’m happy with the direction the team is going and the improvement this year. Chia and Mclellan are on it.

    Chia got us Sekera(who was our best d-man), Talbot who played like a true #1 goalie and Maroon+Kassian who completely changed they dynamic of the team. He got these guys for Peanuts.

    Can’t wait to see what he does this offseason. Signing/trading for another d-man on Sekera’s level will greatly improve the team along with the return of Oscar Sexbomb.

    Sorry about the lack of negativity in my post.

  • OldOilerFan

    I thought question 4 was the most intriguing: Everyone has their favorites obviously and opinion on who should go and who we can’t get rid of – me too
    But we placed 28th last year and 29th this year. Need to give value to get value (defense) back. Myself I look at the wingers before I’ll move a center (Nuuuuuge!).

    I was most intrigued by just that no one mentioned the salaries and salary cap. We just simply can’t afford 3 guys making $6 million for long can we?

  • Bubba Train

    That McDavid guy is pretty soft. Not that big either. Gets hurt a lot. Couldn’t even get us into the playoffs. He aint all that and a bag of chips.

    I suppose you are going to defend him?? Hey 29th is 29th…loser

    Am I doing it right?

  • Been there

    I was expecting more from Our coaching staff, so I give them. C+ at best.
    I was led to believe he would hold the players accountable yet all I seen was the same old. He played the same favourites over and over no matter how bad they played. The power play was abysmal and never could figure out why he never used Maroon and Kassian as big body presence in front of the nets.
    The oilers were once again the recipients of more than their share of terrible officiating and not once did I see him stand up for the players or challenge
    The officiating. Our players would get suspended for hits yet Pouliot, Davidson and a few more would miss games from dirty hits, checks from behind and not even minor penalties called let alone suspensions and not once did I hear any protest from the coaching staff or management.
    Just once I would like to see some emotion and backbone from them. Hell, maybe that is why our players seldom show any backbone and push back.
    Just my option and perception. I am sure I will get trashed but I call them as I see them.

    • McRaj

      I am thinking if maybe there is a reason there is no pushback. Perhaps a locker room issue? Maybe most of these players are uncoachable? Hopefully the rotten core is taken care of. Bye Bye Eberle and maybe see you later Nuge.

      • S cottV

        I’ve always thought that there is a leadership issue.

        There’s a recent quote from Pierre LeBrun alluding to a problem in the Oiler dressing room.

        I don’t think that Nuge would be the ring leader toward a counter culture, that is not fully in line with the team culture and systems that McLellan would be trying to build.

        Hall and Eberle are the most likely ring leaders that might be influencing things counter to some of the changes McLellan wants to make. They are the longest serving and highest paid players. Both would be viewed as entitled, self serving, one dimensional, white collared and least coachable – by most of the rest of the player group.

        There have been many clues to suggest that a problem exists, beyond the fact that the Oilers have played like a team that has leadership issues for a long time, for anyone who has some experience involved up close – within high level hockey. You can see it – in the way that they play.

        I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hall, Eberle and Yak out of here, this summer.

        Nuge – I would keep him around for a most of next year, to see how he fits in part time as a winger and part time as a top 2 centerman.

  • McRaj

    Yes the Oilers improved. But comparative to the improvements of other team’s it was significantly less. If this is the rate of improvement then say goodbye to Connor cause he ain’t staying.

    Are fan’s not embarassed of Florida starting a rebuild after us and finishing before? How about Buffalo going from being a cup contender to a complete rebuild and finishing ahead of us all during our endless rebuild?

    I like how someone said “if everyone is healthy we finish with 94 points next year”. Man give me a break, with the way this roster is constructed, even if everyone played 82 games, 82 points is the ceiling. This roster needs major help. Outside of Connor, Taylor, Drai, Maroon, Hendricks, Nurse, Klefbom, Davidson, and Talbot, no one should be safe.

  • madjam

    No , the Oilers did not improve even visually , and were even worse without McDavid in lineup . They still play poor team hockey that has turned into another solidified mess of a stagnant team . Nonetheless , we all like rooting for an underdog and selling their koolaid . The bulk of core of team is so accustomed to losing , finding a new higher level for them to play is a pipe dream now , as long as they remain together . Drafting even Mathews with present core , will not help the current status quo , as they do not play well together consistently as a group . That you can see clearly almost every game they play . Even players like McDavid and Maroon recognize what the losing has had on core , not to mention coaching staff and new GM .

    Not to long ago we thought we only needed a couple of pieces to be truly competitive , now it more apply appears we maybe have only a few pieces worth keeping to move forward in a big way .

  • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

    CMG30 wrote:
    I ran a marathon last year. It took me 2 hours to finish. I came in 50th. This year I ran it again in 1 hour but I came in 51st so by applying your logic I guess I got worse as a runner.

    You’ve been douche canoed!!

  • madjam

    Each year we have new toys to get excited about , but each year following they seem to start to get tarnished and join in to group mentality of losers . Team goals have remained low for 10seasons now , and show little signs of purposeful movement forward going into new building and 11th year . The luster has worn off the likes of Hall, Eberle , Hopkins and Yakupov – we need more newer toys to peak our interests while club sits abysmally in cellar of league . Ten years , and that basically all we have had to get excited about .