This has been an ugly season for the Oilers. Many words could describe it:
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:
- Quick Hits: Patience for Puljujarvi
- Sekera most likely to be traded
- GDB 73.0: Searching for a RW
- Quick Hits: Oilers, Canes, Dubnyk, McDavid and more
- Monday Musings: Underdogs, Easy Fixes and a Terrible PP
- McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins creating chemistry
- Strome is a better fit at Centre than RNH