I love the Olympics. Watching young Penny Oleksiak and the swimming team has been fantastic and a welcome reprieve from another long NHL off-season in Edmonton. I’m looking forward to track and field starting Friday, as well as the playoff rounds in soccer, basketball and Oleksiak going for gold in the 100m freestyle. Yesterday the powerful 16-year-old was 0.01 seconds behind Cate Campbell, who set the Olympic record in their semi-final race. Oleksiak has a legit shot at her fourth medal of the games tonight at 8:18 MDT. She is must-watch TV.
Here are some Oilers thoughts regarding coaching, PTOs and story from Wayne Gretzky that could have significantly altered the NHL landscape to hope pass the time until you watch Oleksiak, and hopefully some other Canadians, reach the podium later today.
- James Wisniewski signed a PTO with Tampa Bay yesterday, but it doesn’t mean the Oilers still can’t offer him an NHL contract. In 99% of PTOs the player has an agreement to be released should he be offered a contract by another team. I’m still not sold on Wisniewski being the answer, and I thought a PTO would have been the best route to take for the Oilers, but if Chiarelli can’t find any other RD options he can always circle back to Wisniewski. I don’t view not signing him as that much of a loss as some have suggested.
- I understand wanting to have a RD who can play the powerplay, but I don’t think the Oilers success hinges on it. The PP was 21% with Connor McDavid in the lineup and 14% without him last season. I’ll argue the PP success will be connected to #97. Also, only seven D-men played more than 3:30/game on the PP last year. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Erik Karlsson, P.K Subban, Brent Burns, Shayne Gostisbehere, Kris Letang and Ryan Suter. And only 21 in total averaged over 3 minutes/game.
Getting a RD on the PP would be nice, but he’ll need to be able to play EV. That is the most important factor for me. The Oilers need competent D-men at EV, much more than they need a right-shot PP defencemen. I’d rather re-sign Eric Gryba at this point, because last season he was solid at EV and he helped on the PK. If Wisniewski plays well with Tampa Bay, the Oilers could still offer him a contract, but I don’t see how this was a major missed opportunity. Wisniewski had good numbers with Columbus, but that was a few seasons ago, and I seem him as more of a project than a sure thing at this point.
- The Oilers can use Andrej Sekera, Oscar Klefbom and Brandon Davidson on the PP. I know they are lefties, but they all have some decent offensive skills. Sekera, who was deserving of his Shin-Pad-Assassin moniker last year, was still 17th in the NHL in shots/60 on the PP among D-men. I felt his blocks came at very inopportune times, and it is something he’ll need to address, but he was still 20th among defenders in 5×4 SOG. He is a solid PP option.
- Klefbom has more offence than we think. He has 30 points in his last 66 NHL games, and only three of them have come on the PP. He has been extremely productive at EV with 27 points in his last 66 games. That would put him in the top-20 in EV scoring among D-men.
He’s only played 83:45 on the PP in his last 66 games, an average of 1:17/game, which explains the low PP totals. He and Adam Larsson will be the Oilers top-pairing at EV, and I’m not sure Todd McLellan will put him on the top PP unit right away, but Klefbom’s EV numbers suggest he could be a very good PP option in the future.
- Davidson has the hardest shot, the problem was after we saw him rip a few one-timers for goals early in the season, we didn’t see him uncork many more one-timers. “I need to use my shot more. I have to put myself in a position to use it. I don’t think I did that as much as I should have,” Davidson told me last March. He was going to work on that this summer, and when pre-season begins I’ll be watching how he uses his shot. If he’s improved his release, and more importantly getting in positions to unleash it, then he could be viable option.
In extremely limited PP minutes, 22:12, he had excellent goal and shot production. It would be difficult to remain at that pace and score one goal in every 11 minutes of PP time, but his shot is lethal and if he can improve his positioning on when to use it he could be very dangerous on the PP.
- JustDOit asked this in the comment section of my last article. Do we know who is going to be coaching during training camp this year?
McLellan and Jay Woodcroft will be coaching team North America at the World Cup. Their final group stage game will be Wednesday, September 21st. If they aren’t in the top-two in their pool (with Russia, Sweden and Finland), then their tournament will be over on the 21st.
Oilers training camp begins with medicals on Thursday, September 22nd and they will be on the ice Friday, September 23rd. If Team NA is still playing then Jim Johnson, Ian Herbers and AHL head coach Gerry Fleming will oversee training camp. McLellan and his staff will meet before and they have outlined a practice plan. It is unlikely McLellan and Woodcroft will miss much of training camp.
The Oilers first preseason games (one game at home and one in Calgary) are Monday, September 26th vs. the Flames. The only way McLellan and Woodcroft aren’t home for that is if Team NA finishes first in their group and play a semi-final game on September 25th. If they finish 2nd they will play on September 24th vs. the top-team in the other group. It would be an upset if they win a playoff game or even make the playoff round, but I do expect Team NA to be competitive.
Wayne Gretzky shed some interesting light on his trade to the Los Angeles Kings 28 years ago this past Tuesday. During an interview on the NHL Network Gretzky explained it came down to three teams; Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Detroit.
When Gretzky was asked about the final few days leading up to the trade he dropped an interesting tidbit that could altered NHL history.
“In the end, we got down to three teams,” said Gretzky on NHL tonight. “Mr. Snider was a good friend of mine and Philadelphia was
involved, and Detroit Red Wings — and of course I grew up a Gordie Howe
fan and loved Gordie Howe and the Red Wings — and the Los Angeles Kings
were involved. I really felt 24 hours beforehand that I was going to end
up a Detroit Red Wing.
“Both Janet and I thought that was the perfect place to go
because A, it was a great hockey city, B, because of Gordie and
everything that goes with that. And, really it was my dad who stepped in
and said, ‘You know, there’s only one Gordie Howe. Detroit’s Detroit,
they’ve done everything. You should go to L.A. and put a new mark on
life down there, and do something so unique and so different.’
“And he was the one that stepped in and said, ‘You should go play in
Los Angeles.’ I remember sitting with Janet and I was like, ‘OK. That’s
where we’re gonna go.’”
A quick scan of the Red Wings roster in 1988 and we see how much different the trade would have been. With Bob Probert in Detroit already, it was unlikely Gretzky would have asked for Marty McSorley to be involved.
Would the Wings have trade Steve Yzerman for Gretzky? Yzerman was their captain and 22 years old. He had 50-52-102 in 64 games in 1987/1988. Jimmy Carson was 19 years young and tallied 55-52-107 in 80 games with the Kings in 1987/1988 when he was traded to Edmonton from LA. How much would have that altered the course of the Red Wings.
Had Gretzky been dealt to Detroit instead, then the Carson to Detroit trade for Joe Murphy, Adam Graves and Petr Klima wouldn’t have happened. Those three played a major role in the Oilers 1990 Cup winning team. Martin Gelinas would have been on the Oilers either, and the Kid Line might never have been. It is fun to think how the NHL landscape would have changed had Walter Gretzky not told Wayne to go to LA.
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