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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Finding positives down the stretch

It’s a time of the year that we’re all too familiar with as Oilers fans: the final twenty-some odd games with any hopes of playoffs gone and the team seemingly having nothing to play for. The wins and losses over this final stretch are meaningless.

There won’t be much to cheer for, but these games shouldn’t just be throwaways either. This final stretch can go a long way to determining the future of some players with the team, or their value on the trade market.

Here’s what I’ll be looking for as the season concludes:

JESSE PULJUJARVI

Jan 4, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Jesse Puljujarvi (98) skates against the Anaheim Ducks at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The Oilers are thin on the wings, but Jesse Puljujarvi has shown flashes this year of being a legitimate top-six forward. Over these final 24 games, I’d love to see the young forward get a chance at a regular shift in the top half of the Oilers lineup.

We’ve seen him play with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl at times this year, but it rarely lasted more than a couple games, and that puzzles me. When Puljujarvi has been on a line with McDavid, they’ve been well over 50% in terms of possession and they’ve generated 60% of the high-danger chances. The numbers look good when #98 is with Draisaitl as well with 66% of the high-danger corsi events, although their GF% is under 50%.

It would be nice to see him become a permanent fixture in the top six for the remainder of the season so he can develop some chemistry and hopefully cement his spot alongside Draisaitl or McDavid heading into next season.

CAM TALBOT

Oct 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goalie Cam Talbot (33) makes a save against the Winnipeg Jets during the third period at Rogers Place. Winnipeg Jets won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a rough year for the Oilers starter and it’s led to some fans saying that he isn’t a #1 goalie.

Last year, Talbot played 73 games and put up near Vezina worthy numbers with a 2.39 GAA and 0.919 sv%. This year, it’s been a real fall from grace as he’s struggled to stop easy shots early in games and the teams’ lacklustre penalty kill has really hurt his numbers. Last year, he allowed 38 goals in 324 minutes on the PK, this year he’s already allowed 37 in just 209 minutes. His shorthanded SV% last year was 0.872, this year is barely over 0.800. Your goalie needs to your best penalty killer, and Talbot has been far from it, something I want to see him improve on.

I don’t believe that Cam Talbot has been the biggest problem this year, but he hasn’t made the timely saves that this team needs. Over the last stretch of hockey, I’d love to see Talbot return to the form we saw last year so that there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that he will be this team’s starter next season.

STROME AT CENTER

If the Oilers end up trading Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or using either him or Leon Draisaitl as a winger next year, they’ll need a third line centre and that centre will have to be relatively cost-effective.

Ryan Strome hasn’t looked very comfortable in an Oilers jersey (despite scoring yesterday), but I do believe that he’s a good option as the team’s third line centre. I dug up his numbers when he’s on the ice without McDavid, Draisaitl or Nugent-Hopkins (trying to best find his numbers as a centre only) and they’re pretty solid.

When Strome is on the ice as a centre the Oilers have scored 10 goals and given up 11, while getting the majority of the scoring chances. That’s not too shabby and I don’t think he looks out of place as an NHL centerman. It might just be me, but he doesn’t seem to make a lot of mistakes and that’s something I value in a bottom six player.

He plays well on both sides of the puck, he’s decent on the powerplay and I think he has more offensive ability at even strength then he’s shown this year. I’ll be watching to see if Strome can develop a little bit more as we finish off this season, and maybe show that he can be a reliable third line centre option heading into next season.

McDAVID FOR THE ART ROSS

Feb 1, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) celebrates a second period goal against the Colorado Avalanche at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

This one will just kind of be fun to watch. Whether they’re winning or losing, it’ll be fun to see if McDavid can defy the odds and sprint his way to another Art Ross. He has a lot of catching up to do, as he sits eight points back of Lightning star Nikita Kucherov, but I wouldn’t doubt McDavid’s ability to heat up even as the team’s season spirals further into the dumpster.

It’s highly unlikely, but it’ll be fun to watch nonetheless.

Just because the playoffs are out of reach doesn’t mean this last bit of hockey in completely meaningless. If players like Strome, Puljujarvi, Slepyshev, and Cagiulla can have strong finishes and continue to develop it only helps this team heading into next year. You can also look at guys like Talbot, Klefbom and maybe even Lucic to have bounce-back finishes which could help shorten Peter Chiarelli’s’ shopping list heading into the offseason.

Numbers via Corsica & Natural Stattrick as of 02/18/18

  • Disappointed

    And what do you suggest we sign Strome for, the $3M he is entitled to, or take the chance that you can sign him for less risking poor relations or even him becoming a UFA?

    • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

      Strome is a big ? for me. This is going to be interesting how management deals with him. But it cant hurt to keep him at center, that much I can say

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    I’m honestly gettinf sick and tired of the 180’s in this fanbase. Last season, we were praising Talbot because he was the best goalie this team had since Dubnyk/Roloson. This year, they clump him into the rest of the goalies and wantnim gone. I DON’T. This weekend showed why. 55 saves on 58 shots! I love goalies by default and Cam is no exception. DO. NOT. TRADE. HIM!

  • 24% body fat

    The last time a team had an art ross winner and didnt make the playoff was in 2001 when Iginla won. Iginla is a great player but he is no McDavid. This shows how stupid an horrible of a GM Chiarelli is.

    This is the Assets he had at draft day when he took over. Hall, Nuge, Eberle, Yakupov, McDavid 16th (we know) 32nd (we know) Nurse, Klefbom, and Draisaitl. Tambellini could have easily done a better job. Maybe he didnt make moves but he did not waste assets.

    • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

      Agreed. But…we didnt make the playoffs with those. We made the playoffs without the 16th and 32nd Pick, Larsson instead of Hall, and no Yakupov.

      • Gravis82

        How do you know that we would not have won the cup that year without those moves. The real reason we made the playoffs was because McDavid was healthy for a full season. The moves Chiarelli made could have in fact stunted our improvement, even though we did see significant improvement. Larsson is good, but his skill set is mostly replaceable with a player that did not have to be traded for Hall. Hall + 80% of Larsson I would argue, is much better than Lucic + Larsson. Hall is going to be a Hart Trophy candidate this year for goodness sakes.

    • Gravis82

      Tambellini would have just done nothing. It would have been better. Look at the Jets. They do nothing except draft and develop. Its the easiest way to win as you are in complete control of your asserts the entire time. Sure you might not win every year, but eventually if you keep at it things will break right eventually. The draft is free money, invest in it and never trade picks. Pick the best available player and develop them as best as you can. Everyone is so good at pro scouting now that any trade will be a wash, unless you are getting a disgruntled player or a where are team just wants to move on for some strange reason.

      Oilers are not bad at drafting really. The draft is so random after the 1st round that all the thought they put into being the smartest people in the room makes no difference. Its mostly up in the air anyway. Their problem is development with the picks that need time and not rushing the ones that are almost ready. They have no patience.

      • 24% body fat

        go back 15 years, here are ways to improve the draft odds.

        1. no goalies in the early rounds

        2. unless the players is top 5 to 7 do not draft QMJHL players

        3. BPA available and follow mckenzies list

        4. dont worry about size

        5. put huge stock into NHLE, except when drafting the Q

        6.in the later half draft the highest ranked players

        7. dont think your scouts know better than the consensus.

        8. skill, skill, skill, Look at Tampa and Winnipeg

        This is not a perfect system but I bet it doubles the amount of NHL Players your team gets from drafting.

        If you maximize the assets from the draft and for some reason you have to much skill you can always trade from a position of strength for what you need (hall for Larson) instead of chasing the unicorn (Lucic 2009). How many picks did the oilers waste on that, 15 or 20?

        • Gravis82

          the size thing has always bothered me. They are freaking 17 years old. By the time they are 25 and at their prime they will probably be 20lbs-30lbs heavier.

      • 24% body fat

        the oilers gave up picks 16 amnd 32 for a player drafted 3 spots behind who has accomplished nothing in the NHL or AHL, yakupov is still in the NHL,

        There was a time Drouin wasnt worth more than a late first rounder, Yzerman knew how to handle it and got sergachev. Good GMs find ways.

  • Yourresignationpeter

    I agree that Talbot is having a rough go this year. Is he really a starting goalie in the NHL ?? Only Talbot knows the answer to that ? We will definitely find out next season when they play him for 70 games regardless of how he is playing ?! Cause he is signed and paid as our starter ! Signing strome could work out or it could bite us in the ass ? sign him for cheap third line centre. But knowing chiarellis history. He will over pay as usual ! And we will be stuck with an underachieving overpaid boat anchor. Knowing chiarelli the deal will be for 4 or 5 years ! Another joke contract. Oh yeah it will have a NMC too. Loser chiarelli !!!!! And don’t even get me started on bobby niks !!! As long as your restaurant is making money hey bobby niks !!??

    • GK1980

      I believe management is setup in a way where Chia is just the front man for a committee behind the scenes. Does anyone think he really has final say on transactions? I’m not sure. As for TMac, I would give this guy another shot next year. But if the team falter’s again next year then unfortunately him and his coaching staff need to go. He has a VERY short leash next year.

      • Dan 1919

        When I watched every game at the start of the year the general frustration led me to nitpick everything, including fairly inconsequential decisions made by TMac, and eventually land you on the “TMac isn’t the greatest coach” train. Now that I tuned back in for the Colorado game with a sober set of eyes after not watching for a while; I can tell you that the Oilers roster is pathetically weak, and we can shuffle third and fourth liners all we want but they need more top end skill on forward and defence. Coaching obviously has room for improvement, but the real problem is the roster Chiarelli iced this season.

  • Total Points

    Tyler wrote “The wins and losses over this final stretch are meaningless”. You also realize the performance of a player when their team is out of the playoffs is also meaningless.

    • crabman

      games might not be as important but for younger players it is still NHL experience against the best players in the world. It gives players a chance to build chemistry moving forward. And gives players and coaches a chance to work on things they need to improve on.

  • Beer

    Strome I hope changes his off season training to be a better fit, high alt training maybe. I am thinking they want try Puljarjarvi as a right shot left winger, and Talbot: The officiating is still stuck in his head from last spring. Maybe his tirade is what he needed to let it go.

  • Spoils

    watched the Jets game and man does Laine have a cannon. 15 PPGs this year, just floats out into an open area with his stick cocked. To me our very top priority is a shoot first winger.

    xxx-McDavid-Draisaitl
    Lucic-RNH-Puljujarvi
    xxx-Strome-Yamamoto
    Slepy/Cagiula-Khaira-Kassian

    I think with Yammer, Puljujarvi, and even Khaira and others growing up a bit, Lucic coming out of his slump, Klefbom stepping up… This team will be better.

    But after this year, do we really see a contender? Is Cam good enough? Is our top D good enough?

    Man would Dahlin be nice.

    • IRONman

      Get Saros from Nashville. He is a decent goalie to back up cam. If cam can’t make it, saros is solid. Now address the defence. I am shocked the defence is still not fixed. Larsson, Nurse and Russel look solid. But we need 6 solid d. Strome??? How much? 3 million is goodbye. Need budget players. This is a very tough decisions. Nurse bridge? 19 million to sign half a team. Hmmmm

      • ed from edmonton

        Back up goalies for strong defensive teams can be overrated. I recall when Scrivens was acquired from the Kings he had really strong numbers playing behind a strong LA team.

  • CMG30

    Focus on development at this point. Play puljujarvi alongside mcdavid for 20 plus minutes a night. If he’s the future trigger man then he needs to get comfortable in the spot.

  • GK1980

    “If players like Strome, Puljujarvi, Slepyshev, and Cagiulla can have strong finishes and continue to develop it only helps this team heading into next year.”

    I do not believe in this at all. I have seen several season where they end off on a strong note only to fall into bad habits early the next season and are once again out of the playoffs by Halloween. A first step for this team is strong starts. They need to put huge emphasis on that first goal, it is HUGE! This has to be the focus next year. Very very very important.

    • ed from edmonton

      A player showing well during the season ending death match must be tajen with a grain of salt. Don’t read too much into it. Remember when Yak went on a terror during the last 12 or so games of his rookie season? That was his high water mark.

  • Oil9744

    I gotta disagree with you on Talbot, if you had to put the biggest fall off in production and just bad play from last season to this season it is for sure Talbot, he was by far the second best player ( and some people still say he was the first best ) only behind Mcdavid last season, to say he’s been inconsistent this year would be a huge understatement, he was unreal last season and is putting up less then back up goalie numbers this season, I hope he bounces back cause he’s only got 1 year left on his contract, Montoya was a bad pick up, they definetly should have got Mzarek, seeing as how Chiarelli was NOTHING with his cap space.

  • Danoilerfanincalgary

    Puljujarvi, Slepyshev, and Cagiulla should have all been in Bakersfield honing their skills and maturing. Camillari and Letestu have very little left in the tank. Everyone except Chia knows we need a RHD who can man the PP. Lack of depth on the wing has handcuffed our centerman and last but not least drafting has been beyond horrid for over a decade. Love Talbot and he will probably bounce back but who in their right mind would risk next season on poor or even average goaltending? Sure have missed Nuge and there is a chance he gets traded for a cheaper contract. Trying to stay positive but I am just not feeling it anymore.

  • camdog

    Jesse has many things in his game that I like but I do think he should be sheltered a bit. Giving him prime time minutes like Krueger did with Yak well boost his numbers but might not help his overall game. This team needs RnH back badly.

  • Top_Shelfie

    Whatever PC does to make this team better shouldnt include dealing with the NYI or signing any contracts over 2 million this year/summer.

    Go Top Shelf!

  • Butters

    I hope I am right, JP reminds me of Hemsky when Hemsky first entered the league. He would show flashes of brilliance, but not a lot to show for it at times. If we get a 220 lb Hemsky, I am happy.

  • btrain

    I do believe Strome is a useful player. However, my vote is to put Khaira ahead of him in terms of who you play at center. These are my reasons:
    1) Khaira is developing still and you won’t have to pay him big bucks if he does well down the stretch.
    2) Khaira brings the size, skill, speed, and grit that is ideal for a 3rd line center
    3) Khaira has better finish riding a 15.7% shooting percentage to Strome’s 7.6% (factoring time on ice and special teams opportunities, probably worst on the team at finishing next to Cammalleri).
    4) If Strome is going to stick around, he needs to be signed for quite a bit less than his 3mill qualifier. At this point in his career, he has established a large enough body of work, we can estimate his ceiling. For a young guy like Khaira, we don’t yet know what he will become, so I say lets give him the opportunity and see what he does with it.

  • RJ

    Talbot’s save percentage last season 0.919. This season it’s .902. 29th in the NHL last season. 61st this season to date .

    There are not many goalies with a worse save percentage in the NHL, but both Brossoit and Montoya are worse.

    I don’t put it all on him. But 61st is 61st.

    • crabman

      his 29th last year was including all goalies and if I remember correctly there are 10 goalies ahead of him that played less than 10 games and a few of them.just played 1 or 2. he was more like 10-15 amongst starting goalies last night. this year 61st is ridiculously bad and if he can rebound to be just an average, middle of the pack starter we will be much better as a team. And that is a reasonable bet that he can rebound to that level.

  • RJ

    Remember in McDavids rookie season, the Oilers had four #1OVs in the lineup? Next year I expect just 1.

    Don’t take this the wrong way. I’m not saying trade Nuge. I just don’t see them managing the holes in the roster any other way than trading Nuge and/or Klefbom.

  • Butters

    During the first few minutes of the 2015 draft, i thought the Oilers had it made, first overall, McDavid, and the 16th and 33rd pick. My thought then was the 16th and 33rd would be ready to play right about the time McDavid’s ELC expired, or was about to expire. 3 years later, I am not certain they will make the playoffs next year. it might take another 2 to 3 years to right this ship.

  • Vanoil

    Strome? Seriously? I guess you don’t want this team to become a contender, anytime soon. The team is only as good as its weakest link, which should be saved for players like JJ Khaira, not Strome. Let him play on another lottery team next year. Time to aspire to a little more than a play-off bubble team.

    • crabman

      the problem is replacing him with a simular contract or less. We don’t have players on the farm pushing for NHL spots or assets to trade for that type of player. That would leave free agency to try and find value which is really hard. Strome at a lower cap hit might be the best we can hope for seeing as we still have holes on tje wing in the top 6 to fill.

  • ed from edmonton

    “He plays well on both sides of the puck, he’s decent on the powerplay and I think he has more offensive ability at even strength then he’s shown this year”. Say whaaat?

    Strome has been perhaps the most invisible player on the team this year, not a good thing for a forward. He has almost defined the term “meh” this year. Oil will be forced to offer him his minimum qualifying offer, 1 year contract not a cent more.

    • Tyler Yaremchuk

      I disagree. I think the fan base needs to temper their expectations of the player, he won’t be Eberle. He probably wont ever be a top six player. But he is useful IMO

      • MrBung

        And that is the problem. Chia making bad trades and signings. You are exactly right. Strome is the same player he has always been. There were to many cheerleaders (e.g. Stauffer) that thought he would put up more points with things like the McDavid effect.

  • KennyG

    If you had one choice only and only able to move one person who would that be? For me it’s the GM. Remember it’s not Lucic fault he got the girl,the gold watch and everything contract.

  • Spoils

    Moving out Maroon and Letestu really highlights our weak left wing.

    XXX – McDavid – Yammer
    Lucic – Draisaitl – Puljujarvi
    XXX – RNH – Strome
    XXX – Khaira – Kassian