Photo Credit: Twitter.com/EdmontonOilers

Three Thoughts: On the way?

To understate, it’s been awhile since the Edmonton Oilers drafted and developed a goaltender who turned out to actually be worth the wait. That would be Devan Dubnyk, who was taken 14th overall in 2004, navigated the minefield that was Edmonton’s minor league maze, graduated to the Oilers’ crease on a bad team during the Decade of Darkness, was cut loose after one terrible season when the wheels fell off and then landed on his feet rather nicely in the blue paint with the Minnesota Wild.

While it’ll be years before we know if Stuart Skinner, who was selected 78th overall from the Lethbridge Hurricanes by the Oilers in the 2017 Entry Draft, might take a run at the crease occupied now by Cam Talbot, there’s not much doubt the lanky Edmonton kid is grabbing eyeballs now with the way he’s been performing for the Swift Current Broncos. Skinner’s latest performance came Monday with 25 saves in a 6-0 win over the Moose Jaw Warriors in their WHL playoff series.

Traded from Lethbridge to Swift Current midway through this season, Skinner shutout the Warriors for the third time Monday, finishing the series with a .943 save percentage and a 1.56 goals-against-average. Through 14 games this post-season, Skinner has an 8-6 record with a .934 and a 2.07 GAA. Suffice to say, Skinner is hotter than a $3 pistol right now as he prepares to face his former team, the Hurricanes, in the next series.

The Oilers thought enough of Skinner to move up in the third round to get him. Skinner, who was a teammate of Tyler Benson with the South Side Athletic Club in Edmonton, is a combination of good size and athletic ability. One snippet from a pre-draft report of Skinner reads as follows: “For someone of his size, Skinner’s athleticism separates him from other top NHL goalie prospects. A butterfly style stopper, Skinner’s leg pads cover large portions of the net and he is able to repeat the movement several times in a row. From post-to-post, Skinner hardly lumbers. He is quick and nimble enough to maintain vision of the puck, post-to-post, when he’s burdened by a crowd in the crease.”

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No matter how the rest of the WHL playoffs unfold, Skinner won’t have a say in what happens in the Oilers’ crease next year or the year after that, but from what I’ve read and what I’ve seen he’s a bonafide Grade A prospect — there hasn’t exactly been a surplus of those in Edmonton’s system for as long as I can remember. Right now, Skinner is a going concern in the blue paint with the Broncos and is worth keeping an eye on. Down the road? Stay tuned.

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Jan 8, 2017; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Edmonton Oilers head coach Todd McLellan follows the action in the third period against the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre. The Senators defeated the Oilers 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

As was the case with the Oilers, the Calgary Flames fell well short of expectations this season and missed the playoffs after a promising 2016-17. That failure cost head coach Glen Gulutzan and assistants Dave Cameron and Paul Jerrard their jobs today. After putting up a 45-33-4 record for 94 points last season, the Flames dropped to 37-35-10 for 84 points. The Oilers meanwhile, finished 36-40-6 for 78 points, leaving them 25 points off their 2016-17 record of 47-26-9.

It’s a fine line that coaches walk. Bob Hartley got fired in Calgary largely because he was a hard-nosed old school bench boss who was seen by many as being too tough on the players. Gulutzan, who is considered player-friendly as a coach can get and a good communicator, couldn’t get the Flames back in the post-season in his second year and now he’s out of work. Gulutzan is a good man who will bounce back. While I imagine we’ll see a coaching move here in coming days, my best guess is it won’t involve an exit by Todd McLellan.

AND . . .

Photoshop: @isuckatpicking

While celebrations of life were being held at Rogers Place today for Humboldt Broncos Jaxon Joseph, Logan Hunter, Parker Tobin and Stephen Wack, Connor McDavid was at Elgar Petersen Arena in Humboldt to pay his respects to the 16 Bronco team members who died in the April 6 crash and to talk with students. McDavid, Buffalo’s Ryan O’Reilly and junior hockey executive Sherry Bassin were part of a group that made the trip.

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  • Soccer Steve

    Skinner likely gets chewed apart in our system. Hopefully he’ll find the other side in a properly run organization.
    I also agree that Todd probably won’t go. He’ll be fired just after we are “historically” eliminated from the playoffs in ~November and the interim coach will ride out the year. Then Chiarelli will be gone. So we have to bite our nails and hope he doesn’t wreck this anymore than he already has until then.
    The upper management will stay the status quo.

    Fun times being an Oiler fan.

    • Curious why you say this about Edmonton’s minor league system as it stands now. Not the unquestionable mess it was when Dubnyk came through. Bakersfield has not been good on the ice, but there are changes afoot there.

      • Soccer Steve

        The “rushing” of players seems to be a big problem of ours. We seem to throw them in to the deep end and hope for the best.
        A properly run organization gives Puljujarvi barely a sniff this year; enough for a taste of the big time. Yet he plays and suffers through the whole year, with fans starting to turn on him. (Speak not of Yakupov and that fiasco.) And never mind maxing Yamamoto’s eligible NHL games like we did. Were they even contemplating letting him say? I certainly hope not but it wouldn’t surprise me. Caggiula was rushed. Brossoit was arguably rushed, certainly mismanaged for a while.

        Maybe I’m off kilter here, but it’s so bleak right now everything looks rotten with the Oilers.

        • crabman

          @Soccer Steve,
          I think the sins of Oilers past has people a little jumpy around here sometimes.
          In the past 3 years, Chiarelli’s time here, who do you believe has been rushed?
          Nurse was played above his head for part of his 1st pro season before being moved down the lineup. Last year he was primarily a 3rd pair guy and this year he earned his way to the top4.
          Brossoit played a total of 14 games before he was 24. He spent 2 full years as the starter in the AHL before being given the opportunity to backup this year. When they saw he wasn’t ready they found a replacement and sent him back down.
          Bear was drafted and spent 2 more years in the WHL and even after being the WHL defenseman of the year and the Oilers having a lack of defenseman he spent most of the year in the AHL. If the Oilers were any good this year he wouldn’t have even gotten a look to end the season.
          Caggiula played a full NCAA career before signing as a 22 year old. It isn’t uncommon for that player to make the NHL anywhere they sign. Same goes for Benning. Caggoula was primarily a bottom 6 guy and Benning spent most of the year as a bottom pairing guy. The argument could be made that maybe Chiarelli should have tried to find better and more established player for those roles but neither were rushed and spent much time in prominent positions.
          Yamamoto should have been sent down right away and a better option should have been picked up in the summer. But I don’t for a second think keeping him here for 9 games hurt him as a prospect.
          Khaira and Slepyshev have both been slow played, which should be the case for players taken outside the 1st 2 rounds.
          right now the only player that may have been rushed is Puljujarvi. Dispit draft pedigree and scouts saying he was NHL ready the team should have known better. He could have spent his entire season in the AHL last year and had his entry level deal slide. He could have had the time to adapt to the North American style without the pressure of playing on the big club.

          • Moneyball

            @crabman I agree 100% with what you have written. The prospect pool is much better than I have seen in in 8+ years and some really good moves have been made in obtaining quality prospects. No one can fault chiarelli for the Bennings and caggiullas he has brought or how the drafting has improved 10 fold. Fortunately these are the foundations that build championships.

          • Glencontrolurstik

            What has hurt Caggiula & Benning is probably the fact the the NHL season is much longer than the College one?
            They both showed promise early & went downhill as the season wore on. Same can be said for Boeser in Vancouver, injuries set it as the season wore on. Condition College players, as such.
            Keeping Yamamoto in the line-up for 9 games was not a good idea, if you don’t plan on keeping him up. He was taking away a position from a qualified starter that needed to develop chemistry with team mates. This move was more for the amusement of the Upper Management than anything else.
            Just a note to Oilers Brass going forward… “When the regular season starts, training camp is over” Don’t try out this & try out that? Get on with it, develop & work on systems (which already should be in place?) don’t keep experimenting at the risk of the season. I can’t go through that again, with such a promising team…

        • The 9 game trial for Yamamoto was pretty standard alot of teams do that with their prospects, it’s not like you automatically become a bust after playing 9 games. Laurent Brossoit spent 3 years in the AHL before we gave him the backup job and he did a tremendous job last year(can’t ask much more from a backup then 1.99 .918), him and every other goalie who suited up for us this season had an awful year. Aside from 3 or 4 fans nobody is trying to run Puljujarvi out of town, he’s one of the most loved players by the fans on the team. Caggiula played several years of college and was supposed to be a decent bottom-6 forward. What about the development of Ethan Bear and Jujhar Khaira? Darnell Nurse is turning exactly into what we thought he’d be after some slow and steady years of development. Tyler Benson finally played a healthy WHL season and had a good first sniff of pro hockey with 3pts in 5 AHL games. Tyler Vessel also just finished 4 years of college hockey and had 6pts in his first 11 AHL games. I know it’s been a down year but it’s pretty premature to just write off everything and bundle yourself into the corner.

        • Finnaggled

          Broissoit was not rushed, at all. Caggiula signed with edmonton, over other teams, because they told him he could play. Jesse has not been rushed, he scored and played well enough to cover the 3rd line bet, and is an nhl player, letting him sit in the minors would do him or the team no good. Dont just trash because youre an angry fan fella, have some basis behind your argument.

  • “From what I’ve seen, Skinner is a bonafide grade A prospect.”
    Oilers hope machine is doing that thing again. Every summer…

    I could see Alain Vigneault going to Calgary. Flames have a lot of good pieces, but for some reason things haven’t clicked. Maybe Alain is just the guy to make life difficult for Edmonton.

  • Chris Prongers Rake

    Go Hurricanes, Hope Skinner works out!
    Flames fell victim to hype machine over this year, as much as Oilers did,
    after trades for Hamonic and Smith and making the Playoffs last year. I picked the Flames to finish where the did but am banned at Flamesnation so I cant prove I wrote it.
    Good on Connor and O’Relly for going to Humboldt, Classy!

  • ed from edmonton

    Goalies are voodoo, no one knows how they will progress. I recall jeff delaurias had a great playoff run in the Q but didn’t turn into an NHL player. I hope the best for Skinner (can hardly wait for the obvious Nick name) but his pro career is not yet started.

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    1. Good for Stuart. He was phenomenal in the rookie tournament and his brief appearance in the preseason, so let’s hope Edmonton does right and keeps him
    2. 36-40-6, I wasn’t passing much attention to Edmonton’s record, but that doesn’t seem so bad, considering how this season turned out. But most of that was because McDavid went god-mode.

  • vader30

    I watched that Moose Jaw vs. Swift Current series and Skinner was the best player on the ice. He stood on his head. The future is looking bright in the blue paint.

  • Arfguy

    Good hearing about Skinner. What about Dylan Wells? What’s going on with him? Nick Ellis? I don’t have any faith in Montoya, to be honest. I’d try to trade him to Pittsburgh in the off-season to back-up Matt Murray if we can get a 3rd or 4th rounder out of it.

    • Anton CP

      Ellis struggled this season and was sent down to ECHL when Brossoit was also sent down to AHL after the Oilers got Montoya. One of Brossoit or Ellis will likely be gone (if not both) with the team since both are free agents (RFA Ellis/UFA Brossoit). Dylan Wells has also struggled in junior this season and hasn’t been impress anyone so far in minors.

      As for now, the Oilers will be heading toward next season with Talbot and Montoya. Condors will be with one of Brossoit or Ellis and Starrett. Thunder will be with Wells and Skinner.

    • crabman

      Pittsburgh is pretty set in goal with Tristan Jarry, Casey DeSmith as backups. I do hope the Oilers can move Montoya for anything while cheaply upgrading the backup goalie position.

  • Big Nuggets

    off topic question:

    How big of a buy-out probability are Sekera and Russell? As I understand they will still have MNTCs when the Seatle expansion draft rolls around. Meaning they must be protected. If this is indeed the case then no team will want to touch those contracts as they will already be dealing with their own protection lists. The Oil already have 3 defensemen higher on their priority list in Nurse, Larssen and Klefbom. So if we are unable to cut a deal with all parties involved for Seatle to choose Sek or Russ or another prefered player, then we will have to buyout these guys in order to protect our other defensemen. Am I correct in this or am I forgetting some dumb clause in the expansion draft rules?

    • crabman

      to buyout Russell in his last year his cap hit would be $3M in 2020-21 and $500K in 2021-22. The way his contract is broken up to be top heavy and $1M signing bonus in his last year makes for a very minimal cap savings.
      Sekera but out in his final year would leave a $2.5M cap hit 2020-21 and $1.5M 2021-22. so together it would be $5.5M year one and $2M year 2. Not a great option. They can be asked to waive their MNTC or have Sesttle on their list of acceptable trade destinations and the team wouldn’t need to protect them. After the success of Vagas this year, and Sesttle having the same expansion rules, players might be more willing to waive a no move clause to go to an expansion team.

      • Big Nuggets

        My worry is that if we have to expose Klefbom to the expansion draft, then that is a hell of a bargaining chip Seatle will have to make us upgrade whatever deal we have to cut in order for them to take Sekera or whomever, assuming Sekera would even be willing. If we can protect 3 defensemen and 2 of them have to be Sekera and Russell that means we have to expose 2 of Nurse, Larssen and Klefbom. What deal will Seatle be willing to make and why wouldn’t they just pluck one of our defensemen and stonewall Chia’s attempts to make a deal? If heading into the draft Chia doesn’t have a deal in place we have to buy out both Sekera and Russell in order to keep the 3 younger defensemen, IMO. That is not good. What is the likelihood this potential outcome eventualizes?

        • crabman

          @Big Nuggets, No doubt big decisions will need to be made. It is so hard to try to put together any kind of protection list now because so much could happen between now and summer 2020. And I’m not even sure the Oilers need to protect players willing to waive their MNTC. $5.5M might be too much in dead cap to be able to afford to buy them out. Time will tell. One thing for sure is the Oilers won’t be in as good a position as last time when McDavid and Nurse were both expansion exempt.