86
Photo Credit: © Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Dare to Dream Oilers fans

This has been an ugly season for the Oilers. Many words could describe it:

Frustrating.
Maddening.
Annoying.
Infuriating.
Disappointing.
Unfulfilling.

I’m sure you have many not-for-print words you could use, but I believe this has been the most disheartening season in Oilers history.

Today, however, we will look at some positives and reasons Oilersnation can believe next year might be better. One of the positives is something no fan, media, blogger or even member of the organization thought was possible even a month ago. Could it happen?

  • Connor McDavid will still be on the team. He has 21 goals and 40 points in his last 25 games. He only has two goals and five points on the powerplay in that span. If the Oilers coaches and players can watch video over the summer and fix their powerplay, McDavid could score 120 points.
  • The Oilers will not trade Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. I’m not surprised he is having great success playing with McDavid. He will only improve as a winger after having an off-season to work on plays along the wall. In seven games on McDavid’s wing RNH has 4-5-9 with 27 shots (3.85/game) and is +10. He had 33 points in his first 49 games of the season with 114 shots (2.32/game) and was -4.
  • I guarantee Milan Lucic won’t have one goal, eight points and be -17 in 38 games. Lucic can’t play worse than he is right now — literally, he can’t. He had 9-17-26 in the first 36 games of the season and was +6. Regardless of which line he plays on, either the second or third line to start, he will be better than he’s shown the past three months. I’m not saying he will have 26 points at Christmas, but him having eight goals and 22 points at Christmas won’t surprise me at all.
  • Oscar Klefbom won’t miss the preseason and will play the season opener in his home country of Sweden. (If this doesn’t occur management will have a lot of egg on their face.)
  • Cam Talbot will start the season like he is finishing this one. In his last 20 starts, Talbot has a .921sv%. He will begin next year hovering around his career SV% average of .919.
  • The Oilers home penalty kill will not be 61.9%. This is the easiest prediction I will ever make. Prior to this season no team had been worse than 67% on home ice. The Oilers home PK will be at least 15% better. At least.
  • The Oilers road PP will not be 11.9%. With the reigning two-time Art Ross trophy winner (see what I did there) it is freaking impossible to be that bad on the powerplay again.
  • Their entire special teams will improve. Their PP (14.4%) and PK (74.9%) are a combined 89.3% this season. They were 103.6% last year. Most good teams are right around 100%.
  • GM Peter Chiarelli won’t lose a big trade for the fourth consecutive summer.
  • Jesse Puljujarvi will come to camp stronger and more confident, and with a slightly shorter stick. He’ll surpass 40 points.
  • Pontus Aberg will buy an alarm clock and never be late for practice again, and his speed well be a welcome addition to the bottom six.

DARE TO DREAM…

In 2016, with the Oilers out of the playoff race, Patrick Maroon was acquired from Anaheim. Not many fans or pundits thought much of it at the time, but Maroon scored 8-6-14 in 16 games with the Oilers. He found instant chemistry with McDavid, and then got in the best shape of his life in the summer and scored 27 goals in 2017.

Ty Rattie was recalled on February 16th, 2018. He was placed on McDavid’s right wing and in four games he has 3-2-5 and is +7 with 11 shots. Rattie was a highly-touted scorer out of junior. In his final two seasons with Portland (18 and 19 years old) he scored 105-126-231 in 131 games. Rattie turned 25 last month. He has worked very hard to improve his skating and hasn’t looked out of place since being recalled.

In 2013, as a 20-year old rookie in the AHL, Rattie scored 31 goals in 72 games. He had 21 goals in 59 games the next season and was recalled to the Blues for eleven games. In 2015/2016, he played 13 games with the Blues and scored 4-2-6 — not bad numbers, but he went back to the AHL and produced 46 points in 62 games. This season he scored 21 goals and 43 points in 53 games in Bakersfield before being recalled. He has good offensive instincts. Can he be one of those late bloomers?

The best comparison for Rattie might be Tampa Bay’s Yanni Gourde. Gourde wasn’t drafted. He did score 124 points in his final junior season in Victoriaville in the QMJHL. He earned a tryout to San Jose Sharks camp and signed an AHL contract with Worcester. He was traded to Syracuse in his second AHL season and he impressed the Tampa Bay Lightning organization enough to earn a two-year, two-way contract.

He scored 29-28-57 in 76 games with Syracuse in 2014/2015 and produced 14-30-44 in 65 games the following season and earned a two-game recall with Tampa Bay. He then signed a one-year contract, two-way deal on July 15th, 2016. He scored 22-26-48 in 56 games before getting recalled for the final 18 games of the NHL season in Tampa. The Lightning recalled him on March 5th, when they were two points out of the playoffs. He only played 10 minutes in his first game, but he averaged 16:24 in this final 17 games and scored six goals.

He earned a two-year, one-way contract this past summer for $1 million/season and at the age of 26 Gourde is finally a regular NHLer. He has been excellent for the Bolts, producing 24-34-58 points in 74 games.

Rattie has averaged 15:12/game in his four games with McDavid. It is a very small sample size, but Gourde and Maroon have proven that late season success can carry over into the next season. Rattie is loving every minute of his time in the NHL, especially playing with McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins.

“I’m pinching myself right now. On McDavid’s second goal tonight I’m just watching from the ice and it is unbelievable what he can do with the puck,” said Rattie.

He is 25 years old, not a fresh-faced rookie, which might be why he hasn’t looked overwhelmed playing with McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins.

“Just don’t get in your own end. You’re playing with the best player in the world, and you could think ‘just look for him, just look for him,’ but right now I’m just moving my feet, trying to keep up to him and make plays, open up ice and get pucks back. Right now it is clicking,” said Rattie.

He has 301 games of AHL experience and 42 NHL games. He isn’t a rookie, experience wise, and evidently he hasn’t lost his offensive instincts.

I expect the Oilers to sign Rattie this summer, and likely for less than $1 million. The Oilers need some value contracts, and if Rattie continues to perform well he could be the diamond-in-the-rough the Oilers desperately need.

In an otherwise nightmarish season, there might emerge one unexpected dream scenario that none of us expected.

Dare to dream Oilers fans, dare to dream.

ARTICLE BROUGHT TO YOU BY HOLE’S GREENHOUSES

Did you know that indoor plants can significantly improve your home’s indoor air quality as well as your productivity, focus, & mood?

We’ve made adding indoor plants to your home easy! Check-out our selection available for purchase online and use the promo code NATION for 30% OFF your indoor plant order. Visit: http://www.holesonline.com/indoor-plants

Recently by Jason Gregor:

    • Jordan88

      *deep breath*

      HE AIN’T COMING BACK!

      Alright I am so tired of this, ALL I ever here is about the Hall and Seguin trades. They are done and over with. This team has had the mental battle of being expected to be the best. Yes THE BEST this season. Why? Everyone and their cat predicted McDavid drawing up against Crosby in the final.

      We did not have the depth, we had shakey goaltending, our PP sucked PK was Jekyll and Hyde, we had no calls go our way.

      But no, NO ONE EVER talks about that all we talk about is how Hall was an Oiler.

      Its over with its done deal with it.

      *drops mic*

      • Glencontrolurstik

        Awesome… If I could give you 100 cheers you deserve it.
        It’s sad really. Hall this & Ebs that?
        If any other fan base were to read this, it makes us a laughing stock.

      • aspin

        The problem is not that we traded him. Even though I am a huge Hall fan. The problem is that we did not get near value for him. We traded our most valuable player and trading chip for a defensive defenceman and now Hall is gone and we are still missing a first pairing right handed offensive defenceman. We did not address a major weakness with our biggest asset.

  • CBK

    **GM Peter Chiarelli won’t lose a big trade for the fourth consecutive summer.**

    This has to be the boldest prediction you have. And for the love of all hockey gods I hope you’re right.

    Don’t make another bone head trade Chiarelli….Keep the Nuge 100%

  • Consultant

    I love the optimism and agree on most points but how can we be confident that Chia won’t “lose a big trade for the fourth consecutive summer”?
    Only way I believe that is if he gets turfed April 9th, is that your prediction?? Or maybe he calls a news conference and declares “It turns out always losing trades is not good, hence I have decided to no longer get fleeced”…
    As long as he is GM he is just a minute away for doing something stupid and no Oiler fan should relax.

  • bazmagoo

    The one glaring weakness we have is a right shot dman who can quarterback a power play.

    Really can’t see much chance of us finding it. Whoever is coaching the PP needs to get turfed.

  • ed from edmonton

    The audition that Rattie is working through is encouraging and the Gourde parallel is obvious. We can always hope. But I caution about how good Ebs looked during garbage games at the end of the 15/16 season and then was a total flop with McD when games meant something. If nothing else this audition should earn Rattie another contract with the Oil.

    Gregor has summarized the Oil’s foible’s this year like many others. The salient question gping is forward si waht they should do over the summer. I would love to get Gregor’s and others thoughts on that.

    • Jason Gregor

      I don’t see them making major moves. They will look to add a right Dman…and I’d add a veteran right winger, but not a big ticket free agent. I’d rather pay Nash $5 million for one year, than a three year deal for $3.5 mill.year. They also have to get a new D coach and I’d strongly look a new PP coach. The PP has shown no improvement in almost 55 games. Brutal.

      • Natejax97

        Might that be Paul Coffee to fill that Defensive coach role…I do not believe that “advisor” was the reason they hired him, I would assume that Todd is “trying him out” for the full time role? Asking for a friend…

        I don’t think I would step into the big game hunt on the RH D-man…I would draft one, even if it is Merkley. No way would I ever trade Klefbom, not on his cap friendly contract. Sekera seems to be that veteran calming D-man when he is healthy and his trade value is so low we would probably have to retain a large portion anyways. I guess the question for the summer…Is our defense good enough if they stay relatively healthy to make a run? I would say yes… Remembering we still have Auvitu (assuming), Bear, Gryba and next year Caleb Jones as depth guys. Draft a puck moving righty and give it a few years, rather than spending 8 million we don’t have on Carlson forcing another move of one of our good players. Or worse yet, trade a good player and open up another hole.

        This year we should have shored up on short term with our cap space, but I am sure everyone worth big money wanted term, and we couldn’t do that.

        I would like to have “some” cap space and a few contract spaces in reserve to add before the 2019 deadline for injury or depth as well.

        So unless we are going to say goodbye to Klefbom, RNH, or even Nurse…expect another summer like last year. And that very well be ok come fall…

      • ed from edmonton

        I suspect Coffey is contributing here in some way.

        Agree that coaching this year is suspect, but I’m not sure I would stop at just the D and pp guys.

      • Randaman

        What about Mike Green. Having back surgery this week but will be ready for October according to the guys on Sirius. Maybe his value will be in line with what can be afforded? He can still produce and could be the tonic we need from the back end?

      • Louiemac75

        At this point I’m sure Mike Green would want a 4-6 year deal to finish out his career, (oilers can’t go there) but if he’d take a one or two year deal would ya go there and see how Bear grows his game over that time?

  • Rama Lama

    TR is a good player and should be played every game until we know exactly what kind of player we have here………the grass is not always greener on the other side.

    I say this organization does not have a good track record in valuing and evaluating their prospects……..the coach is stuck in his own groove!!

  • Ommmzzz

    If the Oilers can go out a find a proven scoring winger to fit in the top 6, I really wouldn’t mind a Aberg-Strome-PoolParty third line.

    Nuge-97-xxx
    Lucic-Drai-xxx
    Aberg-Strome-PoolParty
    xxx-Khaira-Kassian

    I’m still a Slepyshev believer and think he can slot in the 2nd line and swap at times with Puljujarvi

    • Glencontrolurstik

      Pullijarvi should be able to advance into one of the top two lines.
      He has that potential, soon, or it will be lost to a “this is all I can do” mentality.
      Play him as much as possible up on those lines now & work him in the off-season.

    • A-co

      Keep lucic away from the top 2 lines and the number 1 power play…he has shown he can’t play with skill and drags those lines down…I haven’t minded him on the 3rd line with reduced minutes…6 million 3rd line winger sucks but good ol pistol pete knows best…

      • Glencontrolurstik

        Now, yes, i agree. However, when Looch is on his game and drives the net he’s an awesome piece on the top lines & PP. I personally think he is hurting a little? Arms, hands, upper body? As his shot and puck distribution isn’t vintage Lucic. What we have seen since Christmas is not what Chia signed up for. We all know he is a much better player than what he is showing us now.

  • Hemmercules

    Good uplifting article in trying times. Nice predictions too.

    I have maintained that the team will be better as-is next season just based on the fact that so many things went wrong this season, they should be at least a wild card team. Seems like they are getting some flow back, too little too late of course, but nice to see.

    I sincerely hope they can replace anyone involved in special teams (or at least their philosophies) as that was probably the biggest factor in this lacklustre season. With Chia at the helm I think we are all a little worried about what could transpire this summer.

    • MrBung

      Everyone expects the team to be better compared to this season. The downer is Chia wasted a lot of opportunity to make this team to fight for a cup rather than justvclaw back into the playoffs for the next 3 or more years.

  • tkfisher

    “GM Peter Chiarelli won’t lose a big trade for the fourth consecutive summer.“ – You could be correct here. Technically summer doesn’t begin until June 21st and I could see him losing a major trade long before that; so you could be right. As far as him winning a big trade, I’m not so confident and don’t have much faith in the GM. He didn’t fair too well with Blake Wheeler, Seguin, Hall, Eberle, Reinheart, and im Leaving out a bunch of smaller misses. That track record alone should doom him to hockey hell, aka being a TSN analyst riding shotgun to Kelly Hrudy.

  • Dan 1919

    Mr. Gregor, curious what your thoughts are on Caggiula. Is he a long term solution on the wing for the Oilers. Last year when many were high on him, I didn’t think he was doing anything extraordinary, rather benefiting from playing with strong linemates on a team that could do no wrong at the time. Hopefully he proves me wrong but I feel like he still has to take a big step in all around development to be a long term fixture.

    • crabman

      I’ve come around on Caggiula. I don’t see him ever turning into a fixture in the top6 but if he can provide 10-15 goals in the bottom 6 I would be happy with that production. He plays hard and with a ton of grit. His only knock is his size but he plays bigger than he is. I would qualify him and bring him back on a 1 year deal. He is scoring at the same per game rate as Pitlick is in Dallas that many people are upset we let walk.

    • Hemmercules

      I think people are getting a little ahead of themselves on Rattie. I sincerely hope it works out like you suggest but a few games with McD isn’t the ultimate evaluator of a players skill. Mcd could probably pad Stortini’s stats. Good depth to have him in the system though and maybe he makes the team out of camp next year.

      • Glencontrolurstik

        Yes, he really doesn’t represent the speed we are looking for in the top 6 (though dreaming, top 9).
        Just look at the top 4 favourite teams in the playoffs this year. No way that this team is ready for that speed, passing & positioning. I think the bench has to change unfortunately. Just based on how the Oilers play, and I don’t think it’s all lack of skill level. It’s the systems, or lack thereof that are the root if the issue.

  • Slipknot 8

    Gifting playing time to Rattie and expecting him to continue the pace he’s at is a fools game the Oilers played last summer with Caggiula & Slepyshev…
    It didn’t work out….
    I would like the Oilers to sign a competent back up, one they can receive from the waiver wire instead of using a bloody draft pick to obtain one way to late is something the Oilers have to fix….
    The other needs as I see it is RHD and a RW……Asking Yamamoto, JP or Rattie to come in and become McDavids wingers is a lot to ask and terrible if it back fires.
    Oilers need a legit RW…

    • crabman

      @Slipknot8, I agree to a degree. I think it would be foolish to expect any of Yamamoto, Puljujarvi, or Rattie to be top 6 wingers next year. I would bring in a vet with a history of playing top6. But I would run Rattie on that line until the end of the year. If they continue to play well together I would give him 1st shot to start there next year and build upon chemistry. That would leave the newly acquired top6 to play with Draisaitl. Hope for the best, plan for the worst. And no one is expecting or even needing Rattie to produce at his current pace. As long as Nuge and McDavid are producing we only need Rattie to be a complementary player who doesn’t hurt the line.

      • Slipknot 8

        Well, I actually did say that , the exact thing you just said……almost identical……..close……..kinda close….Not having players that can push with McDavid is what happened this year….giving your best player complementary players IS EXACTLY what the Oilers did this year………It didn’t work out.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      I hope you are right, mostly regarding the coach & staff. His systems are tough to watch, as failure always seems to happen in slow motion… If you know what I mean? Everyone points to the players for this. But the players are playing a style of game that seems removed from there comfort zone.
      How else can you explain a team that was touted to go far, pre-season to the “slowest team in the league” and no special teams in 20 games? The players aren’t that bad, really. They are just playing out of there comfort zone.
      That is the coaching staff.

      • The Puck

        Yes! The coach has to ensure team systems / player roles utilize team and individual strengths and player compatibility. It’s not enough to say this is our system now go play it. I’m not saying this is easy or that Todd is not attempting to do this.

        • Glencontrolurstik

          I am not saying that either. I think he’s just not great at it. San Jose was the same. Good team, just don’t expect that winning point of difference. But, what I’m saying is that Chia seems to have done a great job with team chemistry, now Todd has to take over. This is where Kruger had some strength.
          I also think Alain Vigneault (sp) & Joel Quenville are one of the best in this area. using the players to their strengths.
          Vigneault may be available after this season. I’d like to see him, an Oiler. (no Old Boys Club Connections)

    • oilerjed

      I would be very surprised if you are right on this. Nothing that is being done or said is leading up to Chia getting canned. One year poo pooed due to massive injuries, one year way over achieving and another with 60% of the team under achieving. Middling GF and low end middling for GA isn’t really that bad for a team having the season that the Oilers are having with their power play and penalty kill. Chia’s moves haven’t really sunk this team as much as a lack of players having any consistency.
      Chia and TMac will be back next year and the Oilers will be a much better team then they seem to be this year.

  • Spoils

    Really happy about RNH having positive returns BUT…

    making the playoffs next year is disappointing. we wanted to be a cup contender up until this disaster season… If I am daring to dream it is about having Hall and Barzal on this team…

    what do we need to do in the real world?

    • Glencontrolurstik

      Give it a rest. I think we are far better off without Hall.
      Get rid of Hall & we turned the corner. That my friend is the point of difference between this team. “McDavid’s Team”, if you will. It could never be McDavid’s Team with Hall… Never. Soooo, get over it.
      This team is much better than they have shown us this year. If you are an Oiler Fan, you gotta let Hall go & embrace the McDavid’s Team mentality. Trust me, you’ll never be happy otherwise.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      Absodarnlutely” there is a chance.
      Don’t listen to the Eastern Roger’s Scribes.
      They love manipulating the feeling of a fan-base against any team other than the Leafs.
      Don’t listen to them, form your own opinion, watch the games.

      • Leo Tard

        I watched the Winnipeg Anaheim game tonight… I think the Oil need to continue to get faster. The Jets are a very fast team. Every player has wheels. They outshot Anaheim by a huge margin and dominated the ducks although Gibson stood on his head and kept the score close.

  • JimmyV1965

    Hey Gregs, why do you think Talbot will have a good start next year? In his three years here, he’s started poorly in two of them. I would think the smart money is that he starts slow again.

  • camdog

    I like the dig on the powerplay coaches. They’ve had 180 days to watch video of the powerplay during the season, maybe 90 days during off season will help them figure it out. Good blog.