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Photo Credit: © Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

What would success be for Milan Lucic?

The fan base has soured, the coach continues to play him, and the nasty contract isn’t going anywhere. That’s really Milan Lucic’s 2017-18 season in a nutshell.

Apart from a ten game stretch at the end of October/beginning of November where he recorded eight points, the 29-year-old hasn’t had any sort of success, in any area of his game.

They signed him in July of 2016 to be a physical presence who could contribute in their top-six, score on the powerplay and bring some identity to this team as they hoped to start a Connor McDavid led dynasty. They haven’t gotten any of that this year, and with the cap hit of $6 million, it’s inexcusable.

But as an Oilers fan, you already knew that. You’ve seen it on Twitter for months now, and if you’re like me, you’re tired of the negativity surrounding Lucic and his play. Which leads me to my question, can he turn it around?

That depends on your definition of “turning it around”. If you’re hoping for Lucic to quickly to become the player he was in Boston and actually be worth his $6 million price tag, I think you’ll forever be disappointed. Milan Lucic will never be a first line winger with the ability to take over a game again, that ship has sailed.

In my opinion, if Lucic can bounce back and contribute like an average middle-six winger, produce at a decent rate on the power play and bring a bit of nastiness to the Oilers lineup, I think everyone should be happy. I’m not looking for him to contribute like a $6 million player, more like a $4 million player.

Sep 25, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Milan Lucic (27) looks for a pass in front of Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Scott Darling (33) during the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

For comparables in terms of value, I looked at a pair of players. New Jersey pays Kyle Palmieri $4.65m a year and he’s given them solid minutes in their top-six scoring 14 points at even strength and 18 points with the man advantage. Even though he doesn’t drive the play, he impacts the game in a positive nature. A good complimentary player for his cap hit.

I also looked at a guy like Justin Williams who’s bound for another 50 point season and helps the Hurricanes on the power play. He comes with a $4.5 million cap hit but he brings a solid veteran presence to Carolina and often plays his best hockey in the playoffs. All those are valuable traits.

Although his contract is ugly, I would be happy if Lucic could bring something along the lines of what the two players I mentioned bring. If he can contribute in the top-six and help the powerplay be productive while being a good presence in the room, then I think he can salvage his reputation a little.

Lucic also brings his best when the games matter most and his team is in the playoffs, I think that’s a big reason why the Oilers brought him in. Now, obviously, he’s been a big reason why the team won’t be in the playoffs this season, but I think his lacklustre regular seasons would be forgiven if he cranks up his level of play in the postseason.

That sort of brings me to my next point, which is: can we realistically expect a 29-year-old Milan Lucic to turn back the clock and become a useful NHL player

The one name everyone points to is Dustin Brown, who signed a big money deal with the LA Kings and then almost immediately saw his production fall off a cliff.

After scoring 29 points in a lockout-shortened 2012-13 season (0.63 ppg), he saw his points per game drop to 0.34 the next year, 0.32 in the 2014-15 & 2015-16 seasons, and 0.45 in 2016-17. His contract was looking like one of the worst in the league.

Then at 33 years old, he turned it around. Brown already has 48 points this year and seems to have a new found chemistry with Anze Kopitar. Brown has found an ability to produce at a level that makes his $5.875 million price tag a little bit easier to swallow.

At 29, it’s not entirely far-fetched to think that Lucic can come back next season. He has a career shooting percentage of 13.9% and this year he’s seen it drop to 7.4%. That alone would lead you to believe Lucic should have a little bit better puck luck next year.

Obviously, he needs to get faster and work on other things in his game, but again, I don’t think we should be dismissing the possibility of Lucic bouncing back and giving the Oilers a couple of semi-productive years.

  • freelancer

    The issue is the Oilers had a great low cost complimentary player that could produce at even strength and on the PP. His name was Patrick Maroon. If Lucic can be a third line player and produce 35-40 points a season that should be considered realistic.

  • Kepler62c

    Honestly, he’s a really good and committed athlete and I see him bouncing back no problem next season. Like you said, hoping he’s a game-changing player is a stretch – but I think a productive top 6 winger with 45-55 points is in the cards.

    • puckle-head

      Eh, I think his days as a 1st line winger are over. Middle 6 production is probably what’s reasonable to expect now. And unless he’s going to park himself in front of the goalie and not move, I never want to see him on the 1st pp unit again.

    • hammer313

      He won’t. Whatever line he plays on, that line struggles. He played 1st line, if not for McDavid……but that line struggled. Played on the 2nd line with Drai, struggled, worst line the Oilers have. Playing on the 3rd line, Strome was playing really well until Lucic moved onto that line, struggling. Only place that he won’t affect a line, is in the press box!

  • camdog

    My opinion is he played good until Christmas, then fell off the wagon. Generally Milan plays better the second half of the season. I think it’s possible the big man has a back issue.

    • n(Ice)

      The comparison to Dustin Brown doesn’t hold up. He was “Sutterized” into low scoring hockey — just as Kopitar’s offensive production was knee-capped by that coach. Lucic could hopefully be an adequate 3rd line winger. That’s the best we can expect.

  • puckle-head

    “Lucic also brings his best when the games matter most and his team is in the playoffs,”
    What exactly gives you the impression that Lucic brings it in the playoffs? In 114 career playoff games he’s recorded 70 points, which is the equivalent of a 50 pt regular season. That’s almost exactly his career average.

    • Spydyr

      I have always said Lucic “looks” better in the playoffs because in the past the game slows down every round after the first round and his slowness is not so evident.

      Lucic needs to lose twenty pounds this off season and come to camp with something to prove. He needs to bring back his mean streak and be a bully again.

      That being said he was a nice secure, cozy contract to sit back on. This summer we be a huge tell on what we get the next few years.

  • Consultant

    Last summer he trained in LA with NFL players and did some UFC fighting training.
    So first step is to drastically change his summer training plans.
    I was hoping Andrew Ference would take him up and down the River Valley stairs a few thoursand times but it appears Andrew found another job…
    First month of summer he should just run/ stairs and stretch everyday, stay off the weights, slimming down by 15-20lbs should be fairly easy (it’s a lot harder to gain 15 lbs of muscle then it is to let it off). Then spend the second month skating, working on speed. I bet he comes into camp a lot faster next year. He must be motivated as he is getting embarrassed out their this year.

  • Dan 1919

    Literally stick handle in a phone booth and hard sprints or whatever it takes to increase speed all summer long. He is an NHL player with a proven track record. If he puts in the work and conditioning needed for the 2018 NHL, he will produce 50+ pts again.

  • Keg on Legs

    Lucic seems to be at his best when he’s “mad” at something, he’s aggressive, skates hits etc. Someone in the room should smack him in the face before games

  • Simba99

    That’s what happens when a player hits 28 29 they are on the down turn of their careers unless u are truly exceptional ie maybe mcdavid Crosby. These damn gms giving this kind of money to baffoons that pit up 50 points in a season and get 6 mil per for 7 till they are 35 has to stop or will be the death of this league. I do believe we have a salary cap cause money was getting out of hand long ago so when will it stop they just keep going up something has to break sooner or later

  • OilersBro

    Realistically I think he can achieve the following metrics: 45 points per season, 15 goals, top 5 in the league in hits, 6+ fights and a +/- above 0. He’ll probably be a 2LW and with some PP2 time.

    Qualitatively I expect him to have last year’s mentality where he was playing with confidence and swagger. He’s lost that classic Lucic snarl and perpetually pissed mentality and I’d love to see that back. Even if it means he takes a few extra minor penalties for being a jerk.

    • n(Ice)

      Sooooo tired of hearing about “swagger”. Looch is over the hill and Chiarelli should have done his homework. There had to be a reason LA didn’t want L. back!

      • D'oh-ilers

        They didn’t drop out of the running to sign him until Chiarelli made his huge offer on June 25th. They simply didn’t have the cap space to even come close to matching with Kopitar’s new $10m cap hit kicking in July 1st. It’s hard to compete with a GM willing to overpay by $1.5m-2m.

      • Kneedroptalbot

        LA didn’t want him, Boston didn’t want him. Peter Chiarelli signs him to a 7 year 42M contract.
        How much commission did Mr Chiarelli get for that transaction??

  • Consultant

    As mentioned prior, I am sure he will slim down and sped up, but failing that… could he be put on LTIR like a few others have been? I’m sure he could find a doctor to tell him his back is messed up, put him up in the press box with some medical marijuana for four to five years…

  • Vanoil

    The mistake people have when evaluating players, or better said, evaluating their utility, is that they take into consideration their salary. You never take into consideration a player’s salary if they are on an ELC, so why take it into consideration if he is signed as a Free Agent? A coaches job is to fit the players he is given into a system and to make it work, period. Neither McL nor any other fan should be saying that Milan Lucic is a top six player because of his salary. Point in fact, he is NOT. On this team (nor on any contending team) will he ever be a top six player. That doesn’t mean he has no utility to the OIL. As a bottom six winger — third line energy player or fourth line checking forward he has value. His contract is what it is, which simply makes him a member of the 23 man roster. From there it is incumbent on the coach to put him in the position in which he helps the team the most, from there if he does his job, there should be no complaints. If the intangibles are there then the $6Million price tag is money spent. If they aren’t that’s when you buy it out. Bu t we should all remember the lesson learned from last year with Poulliot — just because a player is over-paid doesn’t mean he has no value and you should buy him out.

  • Kneedroptalbot

    I saw Frank Mahovlich (the Big M) play for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, then the Toronto Toro’s and Birmingham Bulls (WHA), and finally the NHL legends. Reminds me of the way Lucic plays now.

    • Orm Nullman

      Seriously, like seriously Lucic reminds you of a HHOF member who recorded 5 20 goal seasons, 7 30 goal seasons and 3 40 goal seasons. I don’t know what your smoking but you need to stop now before you do some irreversible brain damage.

  • crabman

    I’m not happy with Lucic’s play this year but until he has another season like this next year I’m looking at this one as a down year.
    Lucic is a professional and a proud one. I fully expect he will train hard in the off season. Slim down a bit and come in both quicker and hungrier to show he Isn’t done. He has the means to hire all the help he needs to improve where he needs to, personal trainer and skills coach. I don’t expect him to have the same success he had in Boston but he can come back and play like a middle six winger and contribute.

    He is here for a long time so I choose to stay positive and hopeful that he bounces back next year. And that is true until proven otherwise.

  • CMG30

    It was a bad move to bring him in. A GM rewarding a player who produced for him elsewhere with a too-generous contract. That being said, he’s probably unmovable at this point so we need to hope that he can turn it around.

  • nijames

    The NHL has passed Mr Lucic by. He was useful when the game was a slow big mans game, not so anymore its all about speed and he has none. He is just too slow to be effective in the NHL now. Comparing him to Dustin Brown is fair but Brown can get up and down the ice a lot better than Lucic. The game is too fast for him which results in bad passes and many turnovers. We are stuck with that contract for 5 more years so will have to make the best of it on the 3rd or 4th line.