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Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Oilers on the Wing: Not much experience but plenty of opportunity

Looking at the Oilers depth chart as it stands right now, it’s not hard not to notice that they’ll likely be starting the season with a major lack of experience on the wings. That said, there are some intriguing prospects that will be fighting for jobs and that opportunity is going to show where they stand real quick like.

On Thursday, Dustin Nielson took a swing at what the line combinations might look like when we kick things off for the 2018-19 season so I’m going to use those, for now, to keep things simple for the purpose of this article (feel free to put your own line combos down in the comments section). As we all know, Coach McLellan loves to pull out the blender on a period by period basis and things are certain to change, but this is a reasonable guess at who will be slotted where. Deal? Cool.

LW C RW
Nugent-Hopkins (457GP) McDavid (209GP) Rattie (49GP)/Yamamoto (9GP)
Lucic (811GP) Draisaitl (269GP) Caggiula (127GP)
Rieder (312GP) Strome (340GP) Puljujarvi (93GP)
Khaira (94GP) Brodziak (847GP Kassian (387GP)
Aberg (68GP)

Looking at the numbers above, the bulk of the experience among Oilers forwards comes down the middle, especially if you consider that Nuge (or Draisaitl) will likely be playing out of his natural position for much of the year. Between McDavid, Draisaitl, Strome, Brodziak and Nuge, the Oilers have 2122 NHL games worth of regular season experience in their centremen and those are guys that will be expected to calm any troubled waters that come up. At face value, that’s the kind of depth that any team would love to have but what we don’t know is whether or not having those experienced and skilled centremen will be enough to compensate for any mistakes or learning curves made by the wingers.

As compared to the available wingers, where there is double the number of players available in those slots, the Oilers have only 1950 NHL games worth of NHL experience with the vast majority of those games belonging to Milan Lucic. If you take out Lucic and Kassian’s 1198 games played, you’re left with a group that has played only 752 combined games, which works out to just under nine seasons of aggregated NHL experience between them. To go a step further, take out Tobias Rieder from that second group and the experience is shockingly low. Needless to say, the Oilers are going to be very young on the wings and they’re going to need some of these guys to probably fight above their weight class if they’re hoping to get back into the playoffs. Even so, I think there’s still hope to talk about.

Now, before you jump on me for being an idiot (which I am, so there), I understand that there is plenty of work left to do before this team can legitimately be considered a contender, but I still think that they have the tools needed to be better next year. The question, though, is how much better can they be? A lot of things went badly last year, so I don’t think it’s all that unreasonable to believe that some of the guys that struggled will have better seasons coming up. I also think that some of the younger guys (Puljujarvi and Yamamoto specifically) could be set to carpe some diem and turn in the kind of unexpected season that we always seem to be waiting for.

GOOD NEWS/BAD NEWS

Nov 24, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Edmonton Oilers left wing Milan Lucic (27) against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. Buffalo beats Edmonton 3 to 1. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll start with the bad news because it’s obvious to everyone with a functioning brain box. If the Oilers are going to get themselves back into the playoff mix then they’re going to need a lot of young guys to make impacts whether they’re ready for the challenge or not. The Oilers will need the likes of Puljujarvi, Caggiula, Khaira and possibly Yamamoto to take sizeable steps forward in their development while also hoping that players like Lucic and Rieder can bounce back to being the more productive versions of themselves. The reality is that the Oilers need a lot of things to go right if they’re hoping to climb out of the league basement and that’s not a great spot to be in. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s certainly less than ideal.

The good news is, and I wanted to try and even things out with some positive vibes, the Oilers are going to have an array of young, skilled players that will be hungry to make an impact with the opportunity in front of them. They’re also going to have some proud veterans that will be busting their asses to have better seasons than they had a year ago. I mean, if Milan Lucic is an Oiler by the time the new season rolls around, and I think it’s likely at this point, then I wouldn’t be all that surprised to see him get himself back to a 40-45 point pace as opposed to being the guy that fell off the cliff like we saw in the back half of last year. The guy shot at about half of his career shooting% last season so I’d guess it’s a pretty safe bet to assume that will go back towards his normal range. Same goes, albeit to a lesser extent, for Tobias Rieder who put up 25 points last season after registering 37 and 34 points in the two previous years respectively. Rieder made a pretty ballsy bet on himself with a one-year contract and I’m guessing that he’s going to be happy he did.

For a younger player like Puljujarvi, I’m going to go on record and say that his second full season in the league will be his most productive and one where he finally starts to look comfortable in his own skin. I know that Puljujarvi has taken some heat so far during the offseason, but I strongly believe that it’s still way too early to give up on this kid and that he can still make things happen if he’s put in a spot to succeed. I’d even go so far as to bet that Puljujarvi will be closer to 20 goals next season than he is to the 12 he ended last year with — what do you think about that? Kailer Yamamoto is another guy that could be a wildcard on the wing this season, as he looked very good at development camp and will come into the pre-season with a roster spot on his mind and a chip on his shoulder. People have bet against him his whole life but he’s managed to find a way to succeed in spite of it all and I’m guessing that we’ll see some of that SIUTBOHC attitude this year in the NHL as well. He got a taste of the pros last year and now he’s got the itch.

At the end of the day, there are definitely question marks on the wing that need answers, there’s no doubt about it, but there’s also the potential that a couple or more of these guys could climb on a rocketship to the moon! Okay, so maybe that’s excessive, but I still won’t believe you if you try and tell me that group of Lucic, Rieder, Puljujarvi, Kassian, and Yamamoto won’t score more than the 41 goals they had between them from a year ago.

THE WRAP…

Call me a Kool-Aid drinker or whatever you want, but I’m starting to feel a little bit better about next season as we move along here. In addition to the expected individual improvements and steps forward that I’ve outlined above, I’d also bet Gregor’s money on the fact that the Oilers will be better on their special teams next season which, in itself, will add wins to their totals and maybe even some confidence to the minds of players that need it. Feeling good matters and having some team aspects of the game (like special teams) ending up with better results than last year should make a difference in more than just those specific scenarios.

Maybe I’m high on offseason optimism because I can’t wait for hockey to come back, but I’m banking on both improved performances and the idea that the Oilers won’t repeat their ineptitude on special teams as easy ways for the team to improve despite having essentially the same roster. If some of the wingers can get back to playing to their potential and others can take even the smallest steps forward, then I truly believe that we won’t be feeling the same levels of sadness as we were by the time the season wrapped. Is that really too much to ask? I don’t think so. Then again, maybe I’m a dreamer?

Anybody agree? Disagree? What say you, Nation?

  • Finnaggled

    cmon, you cant just take a certain wingers numbers out iof the equation to prove your point. why then didnt you extrapolate further and say “if you take out strome and brodziaks games played….”
    we have a young team. period.
    they’re all in it together, on their learning curve. its time oil fans accept that and enjoy the journey.

    • Opi

      OK, the elephant in the room no Oil fan wants to acknowledge …

      Chia bought out the hapless plug, Gryba that just last year he had signed to a two year deal … 62 NHL games later Chia buys him out instead of simply letting him play out the last season of his contract in the AHL … never to be seen in the NHL again … but noooooooooo … Chia has to spend money like there is no Cap ceiling … foolishly wasting 300K this season & 300K net season against the cap that the Oilers will be very near after signing the likes of Nurse & Strome & another 3-4 guys …

      Is there any fan out there, Oil fan or not, that can offer any kind of intelligent, reasonable, logical explanation for such foolishness … secondly, does a stupid move like this give you Oil fans continued confidence that Chia is the guy to lead the way out of the 78 point season/mess he made for himself … ?

      The other elephant in the room (it’s getting packed in here) … is the obvious question … why in the world did Chia trade Ebs14 in what is described and accepted as a salary dump for Strome when he had zero intentions of spending to the cap? In fact the hapless Oil have sat with up to 10 million in cap space all season. Did Chia panic … a year ahead of time? In preparation for the huge incoming salary for McGreedy … ? In the same vein, why in the world did Chia buy Pouliot out last season … one of his better penalty killers … also with six goals this season … when he had zero intention of spending to the cap … for a full season? Why panic, Chia … why … ?

      What’s Chia possibly thinking … ?

      It’s very strange what Chia is doing. It’s almost like he was looking at an NBA model where the team with the biggest star is a contender. But, then he failed to realize that this works in the NBA because they have 13 man rosters and the starters play more than 3/4’s of the game. The NHL is more of a “sum of the parts” kind of league and paying 21 million to 2 players that basically rely on each other for success will not translate to success …

  • Sir Dudeinstein

    I question Yamamoto being in the talks of top RW. Wouldnt it be a bit more ideal if he stayed in the AHL to learn the system.
    The problem I found the Oilers are having, not just having a young team but gifting players who havn’t earned a spot with the minutes because 1) where they were drafted or 2) with promises to sign some Free Agents
    I can see Rattie there because he has over 250 games in a professional league (AHL)
    What is wrong with having Yamamoto in the AHL to learn the system through Woodcraft and give him top minutes without being analyze shift by shift by 1000 armchair GM’s

    • TalbotsJock

      Why is everyone so gung-ho about sending all young players to the AHL? Not every player needs AHL seasoning to be NHL ready. A lot of players would benefit of course, but not always a requirement.

    • jesse says yep

      What is with the “gifted” comment? Sounds to me like Yamo is working his ass off and has his eyes on the prize. If he earns a spot on the team it has to be in the top 2, there is no way you play him on the 3rd or 4th line in the NHL. He is a goal scorer and if he is going to play you put him in a spot to score goals. Every kid needs a break at some point to make it in the bigs and I have read in the past that the AHL isn’t really the best development spot for smallish skilled forwards. Too many plugs and not enough skill to bring out their creative play making abilities. If he can keep up and produce you play him an get over whether he is being gifted anything. IMO

    • Gordoil

      No – Ideal would be Yamamoto scoring 30 and winning the Calder along Connors side, However if he is just sent to the AHL we would never Know. Ya think he deserves the chance, or have you already confirmed his ability!!!!!

  • The Future Never Comes

    The problem about starting young players before they are ready is not only the development curve, but expediting through their cheap entry level contracts earlier. Meaning we need to pay them bigger money quicker than they have deserved, in turn, upping the teams cap hits.

      • The Future Never Comes

        Yeah, agreed, it just shows how each mistake over the years has a compounding effect. Like every Oiler’s off-season all we have is HOPE, questionmarks, and best case scenario dreaming. I do it to, it’s all we have most years. I also think that McDavid’s such a beast and unstoppable force, that he will drag the team into playoffs alone by their coat tails if he has to. After his award speaches and saying “don’t worry Edmonton we will be back”, I believe him because he’s otherworldly.

      • The Future Never Comes

        Definitive no. Saying it is a young mans game is implying that 100% of 18 years olds progress at identical times and there is no room for a player not to start at the same point and increase production year over year perfectly. So no.

        • jesse says yep

          Not sure that is what I am implying at all. Every player is different and we are seeing 19-20 year old players far more often in the NHL in the last couple of years. With teams opting for the draft and develop model and shying away from UFAs if at all possible, more roster spots are opening up for younger players. There were 31 players last year under 21 who played at least 50 games in the NHL last year. So 4% of the NHL were on their elcs and played over half of the season. Kailer will be 20 by the time the season starts so I don’t really see this as that big of a deal.

          • Steve26

            your numbers are off since a lot of players elc doesn’t start until they are 20 (Junior route) or even up to 23ish (ncaa route) so would be much higher than 4% that were on elc’s last year with 50+ games played

    • DARYL G

      Peter has made some bone head calls alright but aside from the Reinhart trade and Lucic we have a GM that is willing to put the franchise ahead of him self. He is on shaky ground but still invest wisely in our future with Keith and did not panic and sell low again.

      • C shu

        Draft sergachev or mcavoy instead of poolparty. Then the other dominoes dont fall. I take hall, barzal, beaulivier, and sergachev over milian and larsson. I actually think thats a stanley cup team

        • The Future Never Comes

          98 was consensus #3 pick all around, even was considered #2 earlier in the draft year. So reaching for those two is just from the benefit of seeing the results so far two years later. 20/20 hindsight logic, life is easy like that.

          • C shu

            Fair enough. And yakupov was the consenus number #1 and hes out of the league. Why does this keep happening to the oilers? Bad luck?

            And then you get to the moves that no hindsight was needed

            2 picks for reinhart
            Larsson for hall
            Strome for eberle
            Signing milan heavy stick lucic to an assine contract
            Signing russell to assinine contract
            Over paying dreiseitl by 2 million a year

            It could be argued convincingly that 1 or 2 of these dumb moves would be a firable offense. 6? No brainer imo.

          • Oilers in NS

            Welcome to OILERNATION. Hindsight logic is alive and well. It’s like saying “Why didn’t I buy Apple stock or invent FB. People need to remember that Yak wasn’t the overall pick. Scouts wanted Murray, ownership said Yak. Puju was MVP in the Finland Word Jr, I would have taken him as well. I’m concerned a Finnish GM did not take him

      • Make Another Bad Trade or Signing!!

        Other than Reinhart and Lucic? How about Hall trade, Eberle trade, Pouliot buy-out – none of these have worked out as gains for the Oilers? PC has been train wreck or a GM.

        • DARYL G

          Ok the Pouliot buy out but Eberle was a no shown in the playoffs so how did that hurt us and we dumped salary. Everyone knew we needed a RH dman and Larrson has filled that bill. Yes Hall was a big price but it got us to the second round and if Sekera hadn’t gone down we would have won the series with the Ducks.

  • C shu

    Milan Lucic has the speed of a house plant. He indeed has a heavy stick, but is not a good ice hockey player. Everything possible should be done to shed this albatross of a contract. Throw in a second rounder and take nothing in return if you have to. Remember we gave up two second rounders to sign our gm and head coach. Those moves havent really worked out. No biggie tossing a third second rounder to the wind

    • Bills Bills

      You ignore the fact that trading Hall for Larsson and signing Lucic helped this team into the playoffs for the first time. You also choose to ignore that Eberle was a complete passenger for most of the season and all of the playoffs. I was not a fan of Pouliot buyout as he was serviceable but he is currently unsigned and may not get a contract for the next season. He was cap space that was certainly needed. Yes the Reinhardt trade was bad. But I am guessing that there were a lot of influence from MacT on that trade. They had a love for that kid since he was an Oil King. If you want to continue to argue that Lucic is a bad hockey player, you clearly have zero ability to evaluate a player. There was a bidding war for Lucic, Van and LA both tried to sign him and he chose Edmonton. I am still glad he did.

      • Arfguy

        While trading draft that many draft picks for Reinhart looks awful in retrospect, there is also merit to the idea that the Islanders were deeply lucky that Barzal was actually there given hindsight. Boston had 3 cracks to choose Barzal, but ended up choosing only one player that has so far cracked the NHL.

        I agree with you. I did not like the Lucic signing. I still don’t. I am actually quite ok with the Larsson trade, since he is a good defenceman and I think he will be better this year. The moves Chiarelli made (namely getting players like Maroon, Talbot, Larsson, Sekera, Russell) helped the Oilers make the playoffs. I think people forget how many things went wrong last year when stating that this line-up did not make the playoffs.

        I do not agree with some of Chiarelli’s moves, but he has also made small moves that really changed this line-up. I think he’s on thin-ice, but has made some moves that might really pay off.

  • OriginalPouzar

    I’m not sure why any Oiler fan would have “given up” on Puljujarvi at this point – he was a teenager the last time he played an NHL game and he was eligible to play in the World Junior Championships earlier this year. If he was drafted at pick 10 as opposed to pick 4, I would think Oiler fans would be happy with his development so far.

    I do believe that Jesse’s offence will take a step forward – there is a solid history of higher end European forwards breaking out in their draft plus 3 seasons, recent examples including Willie Nylander, David Pastrnak and Mikko Rattanen. Puljujarvi’s draft plus 1 and 2 seasons are not far behind those three guys (each of whom played parts of their draft plus 2 seasons in the AHL like Jesse – who I will note, was younger than them at each stage).

    • C shu

      Dont think people have given up. Bottom line is that he hasnt developed like most expected (oilers have a history of this). His stock has dropped considerably. You could not trade him for the 4th overall pick in next years draft. Further, if the oilers could have a do over, there are probably 4 other guys they would have picked.

      • OriginalPouzar

        I do know people that already use the word bust in relation to Jesse – clearly unreasonable, at least in my opinion.

        Sure, maybe he hasn’t developed as “expected” but I would posit that expectations were unreasonable that he would be a material contribution to the offence while a teenager. I think Patrick Laine’s explosion early altered many fan’s expectations of the player.

        Yes, guys like Tkachuk definitely have the “early advantage” on Jesse but the book is far from closed – this was a lanky, power forward type player coming from remote Finland to North America – there are a few things in there that lead to longer development time including (1) bigger/power forward type player – those player’s generally take longer (take Blake Wheeler as an example) and (2) of course, not only coming from Europe but a remote area with zero grasp of the language and being “young for his age”.

        I do posit that he needs some solid arrows up this year and think 20-25-45 is within the range and then we’ll go from there.

        • jesse says yep

          Plus Laine came in with a killers mindset and was hell bent on showing people that he was the best in the draft.
          For the same reason I think Yamo might crack this lineup and make Rattie obsolete.

          • OriginalPouzar

            I think Yamamoto replacing Rattie is inevitable. There is little doubt in my mind that Yamamoto would perform just as good if not better than Rattie from game 1, however, that doesn’t mean I necessarily support Kailer as 1RW right away.

            It depends on Kailer’s readiness (which I cannot asses in July based on development camp). If he looks like he could benefit from some AHL time, be it 10, 20, 40 or 80 games then he deserves the opportunity to work on his game in Bakersfield – even if he is likely to be better than Rattie.

            Rattie plays the stop gap while Kailer develops. This prospect’s development is more important that the spike Kailer may provide over Rattie in the short term.

          • OilerForLife

            I hope that Rattie doesn’t become obsolete. His play on the top line solidified the top line, which enabled the Oilers to start working on other areas of the lineup, such as; Draisaitl’s line. Really I’d be happier if Both Yamamoto and Rattie excelled. Right wing would be fixed in a hurry. Never say never, the Oilers deserve some luck in player acquisition for a change.

            Rattie’s play in the AHL earned him a chance to play in the NHL, and he didn’t disappoint (albeit a small sample size). If he comes back and picks up where he left off, it would be considered an Oiler development success where St. Louis couldn’t do it.

  • OriginalPouzar

    Its interesting that the forwards on the team are essentially set (except for maybe Yamamoto and Malone being on the team if they don’t carry 8D to start the year), however, the initial line combinations are far from set. For purposes of discussion, I will assume that Nugent-Hopkings plays 1LW and Strome 3C (and there are argument for Strome in wing in the top 6 and Nuge at center or LW with Leon).

    One of the keys to me is Puljujarvi solidifying himself as a 2nd line winger, and I think he can and will. Many have Jesse pencilled in on the third line and Tobias Rieder on the 2nd but, for me, I’d like that switched, if possible and earned. To me, Jesse is a higher pedigree/offensive player and more suited to the top 6 whereas Rieder is more of a middle 6 player with top 6 fill-in capacity.

    Yamamoto is a wild card – I think he’ll likely start in the AHL even though he is almost undoubtedly better and more suited to play 1RW than Rattie. If he needs development time, be it 10, 20, 40 or 80 games in the NHL, he should get it – he is too important of a prospect to rush (if he shows not to be ready).

    I imagine Rattie starts the year at 1RW but I don’t see him lasting there past 10-15 games unless he’s improved his 200-foot game. He is a poor defensive player and the goal share in those famous 13 games don’t mesh with some very poor possession metrics (and the Rattie/McDavid combo got absolutely caved without Nuge).

    Just imagine, what if both Puljujarvi and Yamamoto prove to be top 6 right wingers by the end of this season? That bodes quite well for the future with some decent winger talent percolating in the AHL and junior leagues.

  • jesse says yep

    Formerly OilerJed
    Perfect Article to post with my new handle and fancy avatar.
    This is the season that Jesse figures it out and cracks it open just a bit. Not going to be his breakout year (thats not coming until next 2019/2020) but Jesse will pot 30-35 pts this year and finish the season on the second line with Rieder and Drai. Lucic will drop down on the 3rd line with Strome and Cags and be productive but not spectacular and finish his Oiler career as a 3rd line winger and become a penalty killing dynamo.
    That’s my best guesses for today.
    GO JP!

  • OriginalPouzar

    Oh, geez, I just saw Caggulia on the 2nd line with Drai and Lucic – oh, please, please, please no.

    Drake has shown to be very poor defensively and a drag on almost any linemate he plays with.

    Its very clear that Drai is able to drive offence at a top 6 center level (in fact 1C level), however, away from McDavid last year, notwithstanding top line P/60 numbers, Drai had a negative goal differential. Of course, much of this can be attributed to playing with middling wingers and that includes Drake Caggulia.

    Leon had a 43% goal share when playing with Drake (in 183 minutes) and that spiked to 51% without Drake.

      • OriginalPouzar

        I agree with Puljujarvi (unless he struggles in the audition) but I’d prefer Rieder on the 3rd line if the forwards are healthy and Lucic and Khaira are able to hold down 2 and 3 left wing.

        I know, I know, Lucic has been terrible (and I’m in the process of writting a piece on his even strength struggles over two years), however, Lucic rebounding to non-boat anchor levels of production would go along way to this team’s success as well as the future ability to move the contract. No, I’m not talking about back to 55 points but potentially 20-25-45.

        Honestly, I like Khaira’s speed and aggressiveness with Leon (although I’m not sure he’s ready to play too far up the lineup) but can see the benefit of giving Milan a real opportunity as 2LW – like a good 12-15 games. If he can rebound to decent production, it will be huge for the lineup. If he continues to struggle with and without the puck then, yes, he needs to be moved down.

        Trust me, I’d be more excited with Khaira or Rieder as Leon’s left wing but I think the potential benefit of a Lucic rebound trumps it for now.

        I’m sure that is an unpopular opinion.

  • McNugent

    Considering the cap space we had I’m happy we picked up Reider. He was number one on my free agency list.

    That being said, the wingers on this team are clearly not good enough again this year.

    Hopefully we can make a move to pick up an established wing like Skinner. Was hoping somehow to make room for Hoffman. We need to upgrade the wings if we want Drai and McDavid to truly excel.

    • OriginalPouzar

      I cannot disagree that there is a ton of risk among the wingers – the organization is currently banking on internal development. I think there are some decent bets (in particular with Jesse) but lots of risk as well.

      At the same time, I was, and I remain, against the idea of adding any veteran “UFA-level” winger to fill out the top 6. Firstly, we don’t currently have the cap space, however, even if we were able to open it up, I’m not sure how this organization could afford to re-sign a guy like Skinner who is an impending UFA.

      In my opinion, the future championship success of this organization, given the current cap structure, is going to be reliant on value contracts in the top 6. The league has changed and young talented players on their ELCs are able to produce very early in their pro careers – its happening all over the NHL. The organization has some prospects developing that could provide those value contracts within the next few years. There will be some interim pain, absolutely, but the potential for a guy like Yamamoto, Safin or Maksimov to provide solid production on their ELCs for cap hits around $1M would go along ways.

      No, we don’t have any “can’t miss” prospects, however, we are starting to accumulate some depth of prospects and we only need 1 or 2 to “hit”.

      Patience, bridge the gap, and we will be rewarded.

      • McNugent

        I would move sekera or Russell of possible. Not sure anyone would bite but I wonder if Chia has even looked at this.

        Than use a pick or prospect to pick up an established winger like Skinner.

        I know it’s not realistic but I wonder if this move was even considered by the braintrust.

        I do have to give some credit to Chia though.

        Three Years of this Future Top Four Under 14 Million.

        Klefbom Larsson
        Bouchard Nurse

        • McNugent

          The potential of Trent Yawney coaching this group, all under the age of 24 for the next 5-10 years is outstanding.

          Klefbom Larsson (offensive/shutdown)
          Bouchard Nurse (offensive/shutdown)

          Oilers will have a huge advantage considering the cap hit. Kudos Chia.

          Than we have Bear, Benning, Jones, etc who can grow and develop in the bottom six.

          It’s actually a very exciting time to be an Oilers fan. As long as Talbot and Koskinen have good seasons, we should in the playoffs.

        • Bills Bills

          The team was top half of the league in 5X5 scoring and bottom in goals against. So your “solution” is to take away experience and depth on the Blueline for a winger. Got it. I doubt the brain trust considered this thankfully.

        • OilerForLife

          And how do you propose we get him? Skinners 5.7M puts the Oilers over the cap, and we won’t have any money to pay Nurse. I don’t think think thats ok with you?

  • Make Another Bad Trade or Signing!!

    Good article. I do believe that the Oilers will be better next year, but how much better is the question. When they won the lottery in 2015 to get McDavid, it seemed likely there was no where to go but up, and here they are in 2018 nearly back where they started in terms of league standings. It is a backhanded compliment, but I think that the best thing the Oilers have done over the past 12 months is not making any major trades, major UFA signings (the back-up goalie signing is one that needs to play itself out before judging), or buy-outs over the past year, although they likely had no practical alternative given the contract / salary cap situation the team is in. I have been a long-long-long time Oiler fan, been behind the team through thick and thin, never negative, always pulling for them. I am still pulling for them but the string of decisions made since bringing in Nicholson, giving up picks for coach/GM, laughable trades, questionable signings, etc., has me in a horrible negative mindset. I questioned several of their major player decisions / trades at the time they were made, and results have not shown my head-shaking to be wrong. This leadership team may be trying hard, and likely fully believe in what they have done, but the results are really bad. Need some shrewd management to clear up the contract situation, excellent player development, excellent signings, and some good luck. Management group’s track record has made it very hard to think positively. Definitely need some good news. Here’s hoping it starts in 2018/2019.

          • Seanr

            The oilers will find these things out over the upcoming season. Things I some other like minded individuals have known since day one.
            1. JP IS NOTHING MORE THAN A SOLID 3RD LINE WINGER. AND PICKING HIM OVER Matthew Tkachuk was a huge mistake.
            2. Drake cagullia is going to be a winner capable of 20 g a season. Year in and year out. Capable of playing in various roles… PK PP. 2ND AND 3RD LINE.
            3. PONTUS ABERG is not a 13th forward. I’m not sure why everyone is knocking this kid so much but he had 8 points in 16 games after coming over from Nashville in a very limited role. (translates into a 41 point season) give the kid a shot!

          • Seanr

            The oilers will be faced with another embarrassing “the one that got away” conversation. After brossiont finishes his season as Winnipeg s back up goalie… Once again invest 5 years into a blue chip goalie prospect only to let him go for nothing when he’s about to hit his stride.. Can anyone say…. Dubnyk?? Maybe not as severe but it will be regretted.

        • Seanr

          The oilers being hell bent on the whole adding a Right shot, powerplay, Puck moving defenceman saga (which I truly believe they accomplished with Evan Bouchard) will be slightly regretted this season when Oliver WahlStrom lights it up for the Ilanders this season. (11th pick in this year’s draft) Yes I was screaming his name at my TV when the oilers were selecting. The oilers were so focused on a Puck moving defenceman it seems they forgot they really don’t have anything close to a proven scoring winger in the system.

  • OTOF2

    The city must be putting koolaid in the drinking water. This line up is a joke. Half the players are AHL at best. This team lucky to get 66 pts. Perennial losers.

      • C shu

        Imagine a baseball gm that traded mike trout for a bucket of baseballs. He would be fired and never work in the sport again. Hypothetically lets say he was able to somehow get hired again by an inept organization. And he learned nothing and traded bryce harper for a bakers dozen of rosin bags. He would certainly be canned this time and never be employeed by a baseball org again. Well folks. We have that guy. Chia Pete. Tyler seguin. Then taylor hall. Yet he still has a job. Oilers will not win a cup with this guy at the helm. I have never been more sure of anything in my life.

      • Kneedroptalbot

        Oilers had 3 area’s in need of improvement:
        1. Team Speed
        2. Secondary Scoring
        3. Consistent Goaltending……… they still have 3 area’s in need of improvement.

        • Bills Bills

          They needed to fix their special teams first and foremost. That is the secondary scoring they needed. Then they needed to be better defensively. Goaltending obviously needs to be better. The idea that they need more scoring is not even number 4 on the list of things this team needs.

          • OriginalPouzar

            The PK was the best in the NHL from February 1 through the end of the year. That coincided, somewhat, with McLellan taking over from Johnson and Letestu and Caggulia (both awful on the PK) being replaced with Strome and Khaira. They’ve now added two plus killers in Rieder and Brodziak (but lost Pakarinan). The PK should not be an issue this coming year.

            History also shows that team PP percentages often swing wildly from year to year – we just saw an example of that with the Oilers PP going from 5th to 31st in one year. Personell was the same except the d-man (Sekera was the PP2 d-man and not available and Klefbom, as the PP1 d-man was ineffective due to shoulder injury). Both those d-men will be back and healthy (well, Klef will be healthy and Sekera will be “healthier”). PP should be much better.

  • Kneedroptalbot

    My line combinations:
    Rattie Nugent-Hopkins McDavid (McDavid has world class speed on the outside, Nuge is the better passer)
    Reider Draisaitl Puljujarvi (The need for speed, let Puljujarvi develop with Leon)
    Khaira Brodziak Kassian (checking/shutdown line…..Kassian will have a short leash if he takes penalties)
    Caggiula Strome Lucic Aberg (The Replacements)

  • Arfguy

    Personally, I think Puljujarvi will be every bit the player that the Oilers thought he would be. While you can’t count on him to score 25-30 goals yet, I think you do have to put him in a position to succeed. I would not start him on the 3rd line. I would place him with Draisaitl and keep him for at least 20 games, regardless of his production. Let him know that he is being seen as a crucial part of this team.

    I also count myself as one of those people that believe he will be more productive than any of his previous seasons.

  • chezzychez

    I think Maksimov could come out of no where this year or next and make the team. It would obviously be rushing a prospect but the right side is an absolute crap shoot right now and he has an NHL shot and good wheels already.