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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson/USA TODAY Sports

The Oilers have found a legitimate replacement for Benoit Pouliot, who played his way off the team

2016-17 Edmonton Oilers: No. 67 LW Benoit Pouliot

I should start by saying that I’m a fan of Benoit Pouliot as a player. I like his speed, his offensive ability, his (when he’s playing well) physical game and to some degree I can live with dumb offensive zone penalties as the cost of doing business. I thought he had two excellent years for the Edmonton Oilers.

This, though, is a review of 2016-17. And in 2016-17, Pouliot stunk.

There are lots of ways to express that truth. One of them is with scoring rates, specifically 5-on-5 points/hour. This chart contrast Pouliot this season with the three worst Oilers forwards and with his performance the last two years:

Player Points TOI PTS/60
Pouliot, 2015-16 24 701 2.05
Pouliot, 2014-15 24 746 1.93
Milan Lucic 23 1135 1.22
Matt Hendricks 7 378 1.11
Pouliot, 2016-17 14 780 1.08
Drake Caggiula 11 634 1.04

Pouliot’s personal scoring rate in 2016-17 was basically half of what it had been in each of the last two years. He trailed Milan Lucic, whose freak year at even-strength we’ve already covered. He trailed Matt Hendricks, a pure defensive specialist in the twilight of his career. He narrowly outscored Drake Caggiula, the rookie centre coming off a preseason injury who was thrown into a third-line centre role he wasn’t nearly ready for.

Nor is there much comfort in the underlying numbers. Pouliot’s shot rate this year was his worst since 2009 – not only was he not scoring, but he wasn’t getting shots, either. His physical game has evaporated, too; in his first year with the Oilers, Pouliot had 71 hits in 58 games; last year he played nine more games and had 32 fewer hits.

In fairness to Pouliot, things could have been worse. Edmonton’s opponents didn’t generate a whole lot when he was on the ice, either. He played an important and underrated role on the penalty kill, particularly in the postseason. While Zack Kassian was justly lauded for his work on the PK, Pouliot played more minutes and the team had better results when he was on the ice than it did with Kassian out there.

Nevertheless, those marginal victories don’t count for a lot when the player in question is being paid to score and isn’t doing so. For a player who entered the season needing to win over his coach and GM, that lack of offence was lethal and led to Pouliot’s buyout.

I like Buffalo’s cheap bet on Pouliot. If Pouliot doesn’t rebound, he’ll be a depth guy paid like a depth guy; if he does rebound, it’s a value contract. His chances of coming around are probably better on a new team, a team where the new management actually went out and got him, rather than inheriting him from the last group.

Edmonton, meanwhile, is making a similar bet on newcomer Jussi Jokinen, who will inherit much of Pouliot’s role and minutes. Jokinen, like Pouliot, joins the team after a difficult year in which his 5v5 scoring collapsed, and like Pouliot can handle multiple roles, including the penalty kill. Perhaps crucially, he comes with Peter Chiarelli’s stamp of approval, a legitimacy that Pouliot lacked even when he was playing well.

Bottom line: Pouliot played his way out of Edmonton last season, and will be replaced by the older but very comparable Jussi Jokinen on the Oilers’ roster.

Previous year-end reviews:

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    i’m happy Pouliot is gone! and i just don’t understand why some Oiler fans seem hell bent on not making the team better as soon as possible and wait for guys like Poo, Ebs and Nail to have “good” years so their “trade value” will go up. i could care a less about these ineffective players and their trade value….if you can’t play well here, goodbye!! and these 3 in particular didn’t so goodbye….right now so this team can move forward. though we shouldn’t ignore our development system, it’s time to start making the correct moves NOW if you want a cup winner here as soon as possible while McDavid is still signed to play here.

      • Carl the tooth

        Lol if all it takes 1 bad year to rid a roster player you’ll lose a bunch every year . Brodie not the greatest season last year but you hear any talk that he’s not a piece of garbage worth nothing and being traded his contracts pretty sweet at 4 mill range so maybe not the best comparison but everyone suggests he will bounce back next season .lucky that hall was traded to New Jersey if he were on say Pittsburg he probably could have ripped up 80+ points and everyone in soiler town would be crowing to the moon and cherrelli would be on a chop block . Same with eberle lucky he went to islanders but he could still rip up 70+ easy too I’m sure then what ? Yikes!!! Yikes!! Yikes!! Now nuge will be next . These trades will come back to haunt you it’s inevitable

        • HardBoiledOil 1.0

          @Carl the tooth….apples and oranges. Eberle brings some scoring but little else to his game. Brodie has more than one dimension to his game unlike Eberle, plays a more difficult position and is an important part of a very good D core that now has added Hamonic to the team.

          • Oilerz4life

            OK first off the only move not cap related was poo thats it. Cap hell and with Chiarelli that should come as absolutely no suprise.

            Next, the Oilers face two intangibles. One, the Sekera injury. Two, when Sekera comes back, we don’t know if and when that happens the Oilers will have taken a step back or not, hopefully not. But, with these rinky dink moves that is absolutely no guarantee.

            With Drai there is nothing Chiarelli can do but wait and stop shovelling money off the back of the truck. He has no choice. Stuck in a holding pattern. But, that is a salary cap problem. Cap hell. Money. Has nothing to do with whipping boy gossip girl nonsense.

      • Dirtbag Daddy

        It is pretty easy to make a statement that Eberle and Pouliot had 1 bad year. What games were you watching? Eberle was to be the RW for McDavid and given every opportunity in the world for two years. He failed miserably. That is 2 years. As for Pouliot he still showed up during the playoffs and played very well defensively, especially on the penalty kill. And isn’t it funny that they were on the same line with RNH?

    • Rock11

      The only counter argument to that argument is that you can’t keep giving away actual NHL players for lesser versions. While I understand the cap savings, Strome is the same player type as Eberle just not nearly as successful. While I have little issue with swapping Jokinen for Pouliot as players, I didnt understand the need for the buyout this year. Chia looks like he doesn’t plan to use the cap space and the dead money now creeps further into the future when cap room figures to be much tougher to come by.

      • Dwayne Roloson 35

        Strome is about 20lbs heavier and 3 inches taller than Ebs.

        We needed cap room to make sure we don’t go over with bonuses. Don’t want to have cap penalties when McDavids contract kicks in.

        • puckle-head

          I get the cap argument for trading Eberle, and when I first heard about the trade I understood the rationale, even if I wasn’t too thrilled with the return. In hindsight though, I gotta say swapping Eberle for Strome AND signing Russell at 4×4, ALL WHILE Travis Hamonic was apparently available for a 1st and 2nd pick, seems to me like an absolutely colossal error. Why not trade Eberle straight up for Hamonic (maybe throw in a 2nd round pick if Snow is being stubborn, but I can’t see how the Islanders would prefer picks to a 1RW who can play with Tavares), then simply let Kris Russell walk? I don’t have a personal vendetta against Russell, I just don’t see him being a logical fit going forward, especially when there’s a younger, able, right shooting defense man potentially in the mix. The Oilers could provide a boost to their 2D line, and save 2.1M in cap space that they can use to find another winger.

          Of course, there may have been other factors at play we won’t ever know… maybe Hamonic vetoed a trade to Edmonton (couldn’t see why he would though), or maybe Snow wanted to move both players to maximize his return. The latter scenario seems the most likely, but then it kind of falls on Chia to make the deal happen. If the Islanders were happy losing Hamonic and Strome for Eberle, a 1st and a 2nd, I have a hard time believing there wasn’t a deal to be made involving Hamonic, Eberle and a pick or two to sweeten the deal.

          Barring some behind-the-scenes machinations, it kind of looks like Chiarelli dropped the ball on these roster decisions. Of course, with a guy on the team like McDavid, Chiarelli is probably going to be able to make a lot of errors before it starts becoming noticeable.

          • OilBlood

            Those first and seconds for Hamonic could have hurt us in McDavids prime, with Mcdavid and Drai likely going to combine for a cap hit of 20-21 mill (similar to Kane and Toews) then you must have young skilled talent coming in to plug holes for players we can’t afford anymore.

            Was the drop off in talent between russel and hamonic worth that much of a risk?

          • Carl the tooth

            Hamonic salary is a bargain for the player a top 4 that’s s signed for next 3 years under4 mill that plays against other teams top players and he just turned 27

          • Carl the tooth

            It didn’t make much sense to me either flames already have a pretty good defence and need a top 6 rw and oilers could have got haminoc straight across almost I would think and flames could have given less for strome or surprising there almost wasn’t a threeway deal with flames edm and islanders . Flames had the space to add eberle

        • Rock11

          And Jason Bonsignore was bigger than that. Size doesn’t mean anything if you don’t use it. There is a segment of the fan base that thinks Strome is some kind of Lucic(ish) player type. If you think that you will be mighty disappointed. His game is very much like Eberle’s just with fewer goals.

          • Dwayne Roloson 35

            I’m definitely not expecting him to be Lucic but being bigger helps with reach and being able to take a hit which is something Eberle didn’t have.

            Strome does hit more though. Ebs had 26 hits in 82 games last year and strome had 59 hits in 69 games. Strome also played less minutes and had a down year.

            I also noticed that Strome had 33 takeaways and Ebs had 38. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Strome will be more effective in a lot of areas that Ebs was invisible in.

            Ebs is a better scorer but I think Jokinen and Strome combined can outproduce what Eberle did last year while giving us more depth.

          • puckle-head

            @OilBlood Based on what the Islanders ended up trading Hamonic for, I would be surprised if they turned down a straight Eberle for Hamonic swap. If you reread my comment, I mentioned an extra pick to sweeten the deal if necessary but you definitely wouldn’t give up Eberle and a first, and I highly doubt you would even need to give up a second rounder to make it happen. You are right though that picks are going to be of high value to the Oilers going forward as they will need bargain contracts. Probably wouldn’t be quite as precious to us if we had Mathew Barzal coming up the pipeline, of course.

      • Finnaggled

        how is strome at all the same player type?? different position, style, aggressiveness level…

        I also think they’ve saved the extra cap money to bonus Leon this year and lessen the average cap hit when mcdavids starts next season.

  • Glencontrolurstik

    I am excited to see what Jokinen can do. Not only will he bring comfort to JP, he seems like he will fit in with the personality of the Oiler team. As you mentioned, he is multi talented. If he finds his point getting prowess from a few years ago it’ll be nothing but a bonus for us. I think he will, with the talent that surrounds him here…
    I can see him on a short handed special teams line with Letestu…

  • OriginalPouzar

    Buffalo made a great bet – very good chance that Benoit will outplay that cap hit – we all know he’s a better player than he showed last season.

    Its very similar to Jokinen’s signing – a very good bet by our management as there is a high chance he’ll outplay the cap hit – its not just about point production (which I’m guessing will rebound from last year’s regression) but about depth, mentoring, PK, versatility, etc.

    • Carl the tooth

      Benoit is similar to Brouwer signing in Calgary .we hope Brouwer will be better but not really counting on it .ufas hardly justify there contracts unless it’s a versteeg signing or a oilers joikenin st a 1 mill

  • OriginalPouzar

    Some have mentioned the potential to re-sign Jokinen – yes, of course that is a possibility, however, if he performs in a way where management wants to re-sign him, he’ll likely be priced out of Edmonton and Chiarelli will be looking for next year’s value contract veteran winger.

  • Spoils

    Maroon-McDavid-Nuge
    Lucic-Draisaitl-Slepyshev
    Jokinen-Strome-Puljujarvi
    Cagiula-Letestu-Kassian

    Here’s an example I see bandied about. Lot’s of ways to skin the cat, but I think each of them requires too much luck to go our way. We need JP to work out or Slepy to start actually scoring, we need Strome to turn it around (30pts/69?)…

    I’d feel a lot better if we added one more piece to drive scoring/competition in the FW group.

  • There were moments during the playoffs where Pouliot was returning to form. But that’s all they were, moments. Not even full shifts.

    I’m not a Pou hater and frankly, some of his haters irk me. But I’m realistic and I don’t think he played to his contract (some of that isn’t his fault, some of that is directly on him) and while I thought he did pick things up in the playoffs, he was nowhere near the player he was when he and the Rangers went to the Finals a handful of years ago.

    I wish him the best in Buffalo.

    • Dan 1919

      Yeah he was a strong player in his day, but he let his guard down so he’s gone. I’ve always been hesitant about casually throwing around 4 year+ contracts like they did with Pouliot, or even Ebs and RNH. Unless the management team and coaching staff can 100% guarantee the player they’re signing to 4yrs+ is an absolute work horse that will not regress I wouldn’t do it. It’s only human nature that these kids in their 20’s take their jobs for granted a bit once they are looking at a guaranteed 4+ year multimillion$ contract. Your McDavids and proven UFA’s and whatnot, sure you have no choice but to go longterm, but all these RFA’s getting long term don’t make sense to me. Most of them are clearly close to their ceilings already, so why not just give them a couple year contract to keep them working for it. Sure you’ll miss 1 in 10 like Subban and pay dearly for it, but overall look at your Eberle’s, Hall’s, Duchene’s etc. There wasn’t much value gained, could be argued there was some lost by signing them longterm.

  • Slipknot 8

    I think the handling of Pouliot was terrible and has brought up red flags on this organization yet again.
    By waiving Pouliot and sending him down to the AHL for even one year there’s a chance he would have been claimed, even if he wasn’t claimed,the reduction on the Cap would have been more then enough for the up coming year.
    The signing of Jussi would still have happened.
    The teams still has Pouliot as an insurance should an injury occur, however, buying out Pouliot next year saves additional money and more Cap space for the years the team really needs it.
    Instead the team has to pay more money and more towards the Cap for another four years…..it’s bad asset management.

    • Dan 1919

      I agree, not only addition by subtraction of the actual player, but huge addition to the team culture. If you’re not going to consistantly compete when your playing for the Oilers, you’ll be gone after one season (See Eberle, Pouliot)

        • Dan 1919

          I see your comparison but the context we weren’t discussing was consistently competing, rather than 2nd assists and padded 4th goals of an already 3-1 game. Lucic left some to be desired as far as points, but he was hard to play against every night and made the Oilers a better overall team almost all the time. Eberle helped when he played well, but when he wasn’t playing well which was often, he was a liability out there

  • JimmyV1965

    I don’t understand why they just didn’t send Poo down to the minors. If you’re not using the cap space send him down and then you don’t need to pay part of his contract for the next four years. I’m sure they could have unloaded him a year from now with only one year left on his contract.

  • OriginalPouzar

    They are at 50 contracts right now (48 with two slides) – they needed to get out of the Pouliot contract so they have a bit of wiggle room to make a mid-season acquisition.

    This wasn’t about cap hit (for this year), it was about contract space.

  • madjam

    Ethan Bear (RD) will crack lineup this season as a depth defenseman or a forward , or both . This is my dark horse this year . He gives our defense an added dimension we currently lack , and good chance for quarterbacking power play .

    • oilfan4ever

      Bear has great potential but isn’t a good enuff skater to play a fwd position and to throw him into the fire in his first pro year is almost a guarantee that you will ruin his confidence and possibly his career.Maybe youwere jesting with your comment and I mistakenly thought you were serious.

      • madjam

        Not joking at all . Take a look at you tube for a 14 minute highlight package of Bears last season . Impressive to say the least . Then go to hockeywriters and read article ” Will Ethan Bear Be An Oiler 2017-18″ . Last 20 WHL defenseman of the year have averaged 33 games in NHL first season . Last 5-24 games , last 10- 27games average and last 10 -33 games . Only 3 of last 20 have not made this type of jump . In a nutshell , they are getting more than the proverbial “cup of coffee” . Article goes on to compare him to Benning last season from NCAA . Bears equivalencies are above Benning’s , and Bear is sturdier built and played more games in WHL than Bennnig in NCAA . Bear closer than a lot of people realize . I like his shot, even his wrister , and his ability to enter play and distribute the puck . Are the Oilers going to buck history and keep Bear out of NHL all season ?

    • Finnaggled

      No, just no. a forward…? c’mon man, who would take a longshot (albeit talented) kid, straight outta junior, and throw him in the nhl in a different position……i want some of what you’re smokin pally lol

      • madjam

        You need to expand your horizons on some players and their possible overall abilities . Laleggia an example of turning him also into a forward . Like the idea of perhaps doing like Burns does for S.Jose-more than just a standard defenseman . You might need to get off depression pills – seems to be giving you tunnel vision ?

  • Kr55

    Pouliot is a classic hot and cold player. Unfortunately I think he was put permanently on ice when McLellan finally started to call him out on his stupid penalties. Pouliot seems to need to free wheel out there to be able to play his game, but with that comes a lack of discipline. Not sure how a coach puts both together, I think McLellan just gave up trying.

  • At the Oilers Signature Event in 2016, I got the following signatures:
    Taylor Hall on a Gretzky/Messier-signed Titan stick
    Jordan Eberle on the back of a blue jersey
    Benoit Pouliot on a player card
    Matt Hendricks on a player card

    None of these players are with the team now and I’ve decided to stop attending these things!