Hendricks injury creates concern and opportunity

Another game, another injury.

Patrick Maroon, Oscar Klefbom, Kris Versteeg, Iiro Pakarinen, Brandon Davidson and now Matt Hendricks have been injured so far this preseason. Maroon only missed a week and he looked great last night scoring a goal and adding an assist. Klefbom was also only out a few days. Davidson and Versteeg still aren’t skating, but they are listed as day-to-day. Pakarinen is out a month and Hendricks will be out weeks according to head coach Todd McLellan. It has not been a good start, injury-wise, for the Oilers.

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Hendricks was a lock to be the fourth line left winger on opening night and he would have been the on the Oilers’ first PK unit with Mark Letestu. His injury has opened the door for Anton Slepyshev and Tyler Pitlick to earn a spot on the roster, but it creates a hole on the PK unit.

Last season the Oilers had five forwards who averaged more than one minute per game on the PK:

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Letestu 2:28
Hendricks 2:13
Lauri Korpikoski 1:59
Anton Lander 1:56
Pakarinen 1:09

Hendricks and Pakarinen are injured. Korpikoski isn’t here. Lander is in a tight battle to even make the team, which leaves Letestu.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Connor McDavid averaged 57 and 46 seconds/game respectively, but I’m not sure you want them as your #2 and #3 penalty killers. Ideally I’d avoid having them play that much on the PK. Penalty killing is much more taxing and tiring than being on the PP and I’m not in love with the idea of seeing either of them blocking shots regularly.

Hendricks’ void will be felt much more on the PK than at EV, and also in the dressing room and on the bench during games. He is one of the few vocal leaders on the team and they don’t have anyone who can just fill the leadership void. Milan Lucic will be their main vocal leader this season, but good rooms always have multiple leaders and players who are willing and comfortable to speak when something needs to be said.

“I think people don’t really understand how important he is for us on the ice and in the dressing room,” said new Captain Connor McDavid. “He is always so positive in the room and one the bench and knows when something needs to be said. I’ve learned a lot from him,” McDavid continued.

OPPORTUNITY

Opportunity

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Pitlick and Slepyshev have both had solid camps, and one of them could take Hendricks’ spot alongside Letestu and Zack Kassian. Both shoot right, so they’d be playing their off wing, but both have played left side at times so it shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

Kassian is the other player who will need to step up, most likely on the PK. They tried him there last year and McLellan had him work on the PK this summer. We will see how he does. Kassian skates very well so he’ll be able to get to spots, but does he have the instincts to be a solid PK guy? Time will tell, but Hendricks injury does create some serious concerns on the PK.

I’d also look to Benoit Pouliot to get more PK time. He did it sparingly last season, 25 seconds per game, but I’d expect he’ll be called upon to be more involved with a man down.

I would also scour the waiver wire in the next week and if a veteran forward who kills penalties is available I could see Chiarelli considering him.

The Oilers only have two preseason games remaining and they need to avoid any more injuries.

ROSTER MOVES

Opportunity

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Netminder Laurent Brossoit and defencemen Jordan Oesterle and Dillon Simpson were assigned to Bakersfield this morning.

It makes sense to have Brossoit playing regularly in the AHL. He’ll develop more by playing in Bakersfield than sitting on the bench in Edmonton. It is fair to suggest he’s a better goalie today than Jonas Gustavsson, and I won’t be surprised if we see Brossoit recalled a few times this season.

The Oilers have a very friendly schedule in October and I’d start Cam Talbot in all nine games. When the calendar turns to November and Brossoit is playing well in Bakersfield and Gustavsson has sat on the bench for a month, I’d have no issues switching them out if need be.

I thought Oesterle had an okay training camp, and I’m a bit surprised he’s out before Reinhart, but I didn’t expect either to make the opening night roster. Simpson needs more AHL seasoning, but he looked more polished and poised this season than in previous years. He’s improving.

Matt Benning is still in camp and he has played very well. Will he surprise all of us and make the opening night roster?

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QUICK HITS

Ali

  • No one should be surprised Connor McDavid was named captain today. Yes, he is the youngest captain in NHL history at 19 years and 266 days (surpassing Gabriel Landeskog 19 years 286 days), but he was the right choice. He won’t be asked to be the vocal leader, Lucic is that guy, but McDavid will lead by example.

    Lucic, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins were named alternate captains.

    McDavid should surpass Wayne Gretzky and Jason Smith as the longest serving captain in Oilers history. Both of them wore the “C” for five seasons. I fully expect McDavid to have it for a decade and likely longer.

THE SEASON OPENER PARTY

Battle of alberta graphic-01 

After a long summer of arguing and waiting, the NHL season is right around the corner and that means it’s time for us to throw another party. We wanted a second take on last year’s season and decided that we would celebrate the start of the second year of Connor’s reign over Oil Country. Thanks to our friends at AMA Travel, Cornerstone Insurance, the Pint, Oodle Noodle, and United Cycle we’ve got a big night planned for you complete with raffles, swag bags, and two trips (valued at $5000 each) for two to the outdoor game in Winnipeg courtesy of AMA Travel.

Here’s what you need to know:

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  • Where: The Pint Downtown
  • When: Friday, October 14th at 5pm
  • Why: Because we’ve got a hankerin’ for some partyin’ 
  • How: Tickets are available here
See you on October 14th!

Recently by Jason Gregor:     

  • GDB -3.0: Catch McLellan’s eye
  • Monday Musings: Now it gets interesting
  • GDB -5.0: Nugent-Hopkins makes preseason debut
  • Adam Larsson: Defensive stalwart
  • I miss you Dad
  • GDB -6.0: Canuck Hunting
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    • RJ

      I remember an article about Brodeur saying that there was an adjustment for new players since he hated players blocking shots.

      The reason I mention it is there seems to be some Oilers requirement to block shots on the PK. If you didn’t require shot blocking, I think McDavid would be a killer penalty-killer.

    • whateverhappenedtoearledwards

      Although he has played center in training camp, Caggulia has played plenty of LW as well. If DC hadn’t already made the team this injury may have done it.

      • Jason Gregor

        You mean like all the others who have recently signed long deals out of their ELC. Suddenly McDavid won’t?

        He will sign a seven or eight year extension and at a cap hit of at least $9.7 million.

        Not sure why anyone thinks it will be a difficult negotiation. He will be paid like a top-five player in the league.

          • nvan97

            12 players have averaged 70+ points/season over the last 3 years, 2 have averaged 80+ points. If he scores 210+ points over the next 3 seasons he’s well worth being paid like a top player.

          • McRaj

            Not sure if you are under estimating Connor’s ability, or if you don’t want the Oilers to give him a ton of money, or if you don’t think he will re-sign, or if you are just a troll.

          • Jason Gregor

            Last season only five players had 80 or more points.

            The year before only five players had 80 or more points.

            So even if he only scores 80, yes I would pay him.

            Are you suggesting McDavid will only be a 70-80 point player the next two seasons. Seriously?

        • Spydyr

          I never said he would not sign. I said it will cost. As you suggest 9.7 million per.

          IMO that figure is low. I can see him being the highest paid player in the NHL and rightfully so.

        • RJ

          In isolation, he should be paid like a top player.

          But with a cap, doesn’t it make sense to see if he’ll take less than top dollar? Stamkos could have taken more than $8.5m, but he took less than max value so the team would have more cap space to sign teammates.

          Why not ask him to take $8.5-9m?

            • whateverhappenedtoearledwards

              The National Post had an article this summer which inlcuded tax rates in the NHL cities. Alberta is now pretty much in the middle. Prior to the changes in high income tax rates over the last year and a half, Alberta had the lowest tax rate for high income earners(39%). Despite that we didn’t see free agents flocking to the Alberta teams.

              I thin it would be hard to find a correlation between tax rates and high profile free agent signings.

            • RJ

              I saw those articles, too.

              For guys like Stamkos, if he went to the Leafs, he would have made a ton in GTO in promotional deals, and not just now but the next 20 years.

              So I take it he really wanted to play for the Lightning.

      • The Davidson hit (mugging) was the time to set the tone. Kraft Hockeyville or not is irrelevant. What happened to “We need to set the tone from the first drop of the puck”?
        So the tone is again, do whatever you want, we wont do anything (STILL)?
        Another veteran brought in, surveys the room and decides turning the other cheek and coasting through the contract will suffice. Once again guys brought in drop to the current roster pathetic level of compete, instead of raising the level of compete on the ones who don’t.

        • They just beat the Kings AND the Ducks in two games alot harder fought than normal pre-season exhibitions. That’s the only level of compete I’m worried about.

          Just because you have a lineup of bruisers doesn’t mean your guys won’t get hit. Everybody is big these days. Enforcers basically don’t exist anymore so the only “setting the tone” is on the score sheet.

          • I do enjoy reading your comments, but isn’t that what K Lowe and his merry band of incompetent minions sucked us in with already? Something along the lines of we will punish them on the scoresheet on every powerplay. That is not happening either.To me the pre season games themselves are not important score wise , but rather to set the tone that you cant take liberties with our players anymore. Opportunity presented, opportunity wasted.The book on this squad is still the same . Hit them hard and /or dirty. Does not matter , there will be no repercussions.

            • So what are they supposed to do? Proactively smash every opposing player likely to hit our guys? Do they have an Injury Predictor 5000™ behind the bench to tell them which guy to target so as to avoid injury-causing hits?

              Team tough is what they need to be. Going out there taking hits and making tough plays, digging it out of corners and going to the greasy areas to score. Winning is all that matters.

              Beating the crap out of the other team means jack if you lose the game. We’ve been pretty good at doing that the last few years. Maybe it’s time to change it up.

    • Derzie

      Not having a d-man in the captains group is less than ideal. Perhaps that changes next year but the guys with the letters should represent everyone. As usual, the Oil focus is on the forwards. (ps. don’t hold up Ference as an example because that was captaincy by default (oldest guy)

      • Jason Gregor

        Pittsburgh won Cup with Crosby, Malkin and Kunitz.

        Ducks are all forwards in Getzlaf, Perry and Kesler.

        I don’t think positions matter. Coaches give to players they feel deserve it.

    • bwar

      Assuming Davidson doesn’t return before the season opener, Benning just has to beat out one of Reinhart or Gryba to get a spot on the roster. I think he has a pretty good chance of accomplishing that.

    • TKB2677

      One thing I notice with the guys listed as being the main PKers:
      Korpikoski is a borderline NHLer.
      Lander I don’t think isn’t an NHLer.
      Pakarinen is a borderline NHLer.
      With those guys the Oilers last season were tied for 17th. Not bad.

      While the injury to Hendricks hurts the team especially in the dressing room and yes, hurts a bit on the PK, this gives others opportunities to hopefully step up and improve the PK. Hendricks is 35 yrs old, realistically, this might be his last season with the Oilers. As much as I like Hendricks, I would hope they would find a replacement for him so maybe this is their chance to see what they have.

      I am not a huge fan of Pitlick but if he is ever going to establish himself in the NHL, this is his chance. ON paper, he should have all the tools to be a decent 3rd/4th liner and a PKer.

    • whateverhappenedtoearledwards

      I do like being able to discuss injury replacements with players who actually have shown some ability to compete at the NHL level. A far cry from 2 years ago when center depth was RNH, an 18 year old and a bunch of AHLers. In just over a year at the helm PC has made remarkable progress.

    • camdog

      If a fourth liner that we all know is going to get hurt, gets hurt and is cause for serious concern, well then maybe there are bigger problems with this roster than a waiver wire pick up will fix…

    • JSR

      First, let me say I am an Oilers fan…but put your selves in McDavid’s shoes. He might decide to play out his entry deal, take the bridge deal which takes him to UFA status, then signs a huge deal somewhere other than Edmonton. The money gained by free agency could more than make up for the bridge deal.
      Lets not forget this is a business, and he is a businessman…
      I don’t want this to happen, but it is a possibility…
      As nice as a new rink is to play in, what do you think the Leafs would offer him, or how nice it would be to live incognito in Tampa or Miami…

      • dabears318

        Ok…

        Well he’s definitely not a businessman, he’s a professional hockey player for starters.

        But then there is those blood sucking meddling agents to think about who all the top players in the game have listened to over the years…

        Crosby, Malkin, Toews, Tavares, Kane all choosing $greener$ pastures… Wait? They are all still on their original teams and signed long term to reasonable contracts? Hmm.

        Well that Stamkos guy was testing the market this summer! Oh… he signed with his original team for less than other teams were offering?

        Maybe… these guys care more winning the stanley cup than about nice beaches and the almighty dollar?

        Just maybe… they play hockey at the elite level they do because of their passion for athletic competition and winning championships?

        I think sometimes we forget these players are more than just their contracts value, and that they are people just like us, who would rather work a job they love for less money than go to the highest bidder and be miserable.

        Let’s hope Edmonton becomes the silicon valley of NHL teams.

    • @Hallsy4

      Maroon McD Ebs

      Lucic Drai Pulj

      Pouliot Nuge Versteeg

      Drake Letestu Kassian

      To me, that’s easily the best forward lineup the Oil have had since 2006, easily. Can Versteeg kill penalties? Bottom 2 lines should have enough guys to be able to PK IMO…. Looks better than last years list assuming they have the instincts to PK. I love Hendo, but this may be his last year (Probably IMO). I wouldn’t take Pitlick or Slepyshev….. I’m a believer they need to dominate the AHL and force a spot on the big club. Lander had approx a point per game in the AHL and he’s a borderline NHL’er. I realize Pulj hasn’t proved anything in the NHL yet but I’m really hoping a big skilled line of him lucic and drai click…. That’d be a force

    • @Hallsy4

      I guess Drake hasn’t proved anything in the NHL yet either, but It looks like he will be a gooder. NCAA is producing some pretty good players these days, I’m hoping Drake is like a Bozak with more agressiveness