Today might have been the busiest day for Oilers news since June 29, 2016. It began with an interesting exchange between Darren Dreger of TSN and Dustin Nielson/Wil Fraser of TSN1260. The conversation surrounded dealing Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome of the NY Islanders, with possibly more pieces on either side (Dusty and Wil discussed Hamonic as a possible).
The Peter Chiarelli media avail was a watershed moment for Oilers fans, breaking news each minute on the minute. Some bullet points:
On the season (2016-17): “What happens is that the team starts developing a real identity and starts feeling good about itself and that’s what you saw at the end. Now we’ve got players that have played in a playoff drive, young players, we’ve got players who have played in two rounds of a heavy series. I was banking on the meaningful games and maybe the playoffs and that was a 15- to 20-point improvement from the year before. We exceeded that.”
I think it’s important to realize this team had substantial success. In reading online comments since the season ended, it seems we’ve glossed over the 82 games and first 12 games of the playoffs, and landed on the final game of the season. Edmonton’s breakouts in G7 were not good, but the team had Andrej Sekera on the sidelines. If he’s in the lineup and healthy? If Klefbom, Sekera and Benning are on each pairing, I count at least one able puck mover/passer.
On the current defense: There’s still an element of growth in our d. If you look at Klef, Larss and then you take out Reggie and Rusty just because they’re older, then you’ve got Darnell and you’ve got Matt. You’ve got some young D who had a terrific experience in these playoffs. You saw Darnell move up with Larsson and I think you saw a good pair. You see some promise there. You saw Benning move up with Russell, you saw some good performances. There’s room for growth, we have to allow space for that. We made some major additions this past year, I’d like to let it evolve a little bit.
Added to the news on Andrej Sekera (out 6-9 months with a torn ACL. Ugh) I think we see the path PC is on now: Stay the course on blue. That likely means Kris Russell back, and Eric Gryba also possible (Chiarelli mentioned to Bob they would talk). Chiarelli may be looking for a RHD in the $2.5-3.0 range, I’ll mention Cody Franson (UFA) and Mark Pysyk (trade, we talked about him the other day) as possible acquisitions.
On the expansion draft (to Bob Stauffer): “I think we’re going to go 7-3-1.”
That means (I believe) we are locked and loaded with Cam Talbot, three D (Andrej Sekera, Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson) and then 7F’s (I’ll guess Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Milan Lucic, Jordan Eberle, Patrick Maroon, Zack Kassian, Jujhar Khaira).
On where Leon will play: I want to give our coach the ability to flip-flop because it changes the tempo of the game and can change the nature of the game. Unfortunately, that means pushing Nuge to a lower third line. I’m not saying it’s unfair to Nuge because he’s a team guy and that’s one thing he stressed in his exit meetings, but in the ideal world it would be nice to have set centres and a big centre like Leon as your centre and not your wing. This is about versatility, and as far as team building it means getting a guy that can play the wing and play centre who might be a centre and can take faceoffs.
In parsing his words, I think RNH (or a replacement) will have an important role again next season. This quote also gives me reason to believe the Strome talk from earlier in the day. A RHC like Strome would mean another center who can take RH faceoffs on his strong side (added to Letestu).
On the way forward: “Nothing has really changed in our approach to building this team… We’re still going to be patient.”
This may signal another season without balance, but it’s going to be difficult to avoid it now. If the Oilers sign all the defensemen on the current roster and replace Reinhart (expansion) with (say) Pysyk? I’ll call that balanced.
In many ways, the job of a general manager is to excite the masses while giving up zilch. Still, it’s fun to speculate, so here goes:
- Goal: Cam Talbot, Laurent Brossoit
- Defense: Oscar Klefbom-Adam Larsson; Kris Russell-Mark Pysyk; Darnell Nurse-Matt Benning; Eric Gryba (Sekera IR)
- Line 1: Maroon-McDavid-Draisaitl
- Line 2: Lucic-Nuge-Slepyshev
- Line 3: Caggiula-Strome-Puljujarvi
- Line 4: Khaira-Letestu-Kassian