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Locks, Maybes and Hopes for the Oilers

Another NHL season begins today, as the 29 teams still in North America (Calgary and Boston are in China, still waiting for their equipment to clear customs) welcome their players to camp by putting them through rigorous testing. Welcome back, boys. Today we will discuss specific events I am confident (kind of ) will occur, or not occur, this season.

The teams will be on the ice tomorrow and preseason games begin this weekend. The Oilers open up their preseason schedule in Calgary on Monday, Vancouver Tuesday, and are home to the Winnipeg Jets next Thursday. The Oilers will have 62 players at training camp, but right now Darnell Nurse is not one of them. More on that later.

The players are excited. They want nothing more than to erase the stench of last season, which was arguably the most disappointing season in franchise history.

Let’s start with my “Locks” for this season. These are things I am 100% confident will take place.

LOCK IT DOWN

Some of these were very easy to predict. I apologize in advance to Oilersnation for bringing up some stats you likely want to forget.

— The Oilers will be better than last season. They had 78 points and were an ugly -36 in GF/GA. The current betting line on the Oilers is 91.5. I’d take the over. That doesn’t guarantee playoffs of course, but last year many things went horribly bad for them. Their special teams were uglier than my grade ten picture (which is saying a lot, because I think I would have been in the running for ugliest high schooler in Canada that year; thankfully, it was only a one year dip for me, but I digress). Many of the reasons the Oilers will be better than last year are below.

— Cam Talbot will not allow a goal on the first shot of the game fourteen times. Think about that. He started 67 games and in 21% of those games the Oilers (because it isn’t just the goalie) allowed a goal on the first shot of the game. **I sent a note to Elias Sports Bureau to see what the NHL record is for that.**

— The Oilers home PK will be better. The NHL began tracking PK% in 1977/1978. The Oilers home PK, 65.8%, was the worst in NHL history. The worst. They allowed 40 goals on 117 kills. FORTY. Essentially they started every home game down 1-0, because they were going to give up a PP goal. Only five other times in NHL history has a team finished a season with a home PK under 70%. The 1978 Capitals (66.7%), the 1986 Red Wings (67.6%), the 1986 Kings (68.9%), the 2009 Maple Leafs (69.4%) and the 1984 Kings (69.9%). The Oilers home PK was record-setting bad. The crazy part was their road PK was 86.7%, the best in the NHL. They allowed only 17 PP goals. It makes no sense how they could be so polar opposite at home and on the road.

— Milan Lucic will not score one measly goal in 46 games. No chance. I see him scoring between 18-22 goals.

— Leon Draisaitl will not go 20 games without a PP point. Draisaitl went from 27 PP points in 2017 to only 11 in 2018. He is simply too skilled to produce as poorly as he did. Draisaitl will benefit a lot from new PP coach Manny Viveiros. I’d lock it in he produces 20+ PP points this season.

— Connor McDavid will draw more than 35 penalties. In 2017 he drew a league-high 51. Last year he was tied for 7th with 35. McDavid is stronger this year. He is more experienced and because I expect the Oilers to be more competitive in the standings he will get more tight calls in his favour. McDavid will scored 110 points. I hope he scores 125, because I love offence, but 110 is a lock from my vantage point.

— Jesse Puljujarvi will have a solid season. He’ll continue on a steady improvement scale. His supporters will be annoyed because he isn’t on the first unit PP regularly and feel he should play more. Oddly enough, many of them are the same people who complain the Oilers rush players to quickly.

— The PP will improve. Again, this is an easy prediction. The PP was a major disappointment last season finishing dead last in the NHL at 14.8%. The Oilers scored 31 goals a 45% drop off from 2017 when they scored 56. A revamped PP, with McDavid, Draisaitl and RNH on the same unit, combined with new formations/plays/strategy drawn up by Manny Viveiros will have the Oilers PP in the top-10.

— They will draw more penalties. Edmonton had a league-low 210 powerplays last season. In 2017 the Oilers had 245 powerplays. They will be changing their forecheck, as well as their neutral zone pressure tactics, and how they defend. The coaching staff’s main focus will be on possessing the puck more. Their plan is to hopefully have the puck more, which should lead to more power plays.

— Edmonton will continue to play well against the Pacific Division. Last season they were 16-11-2 against Pacific foes. It was the only division they had a winning record against. Over the past two seasons the Oilers are 36-17-5 v. the Pacific.

SHOULD HAPPEN

Here are some things I believe should happen.

— Edmonton makes the playoffs. They aren’t as bad as last season, and likely aren’t as good as the 103 points they had in 2017, but 95 points should be attainable. Injuries are the ultimate game changer for most teams, so let’s just assume we are talking about a team staying relatively healthy. They’ve already suffered a key injury to Andrej Sekera, but good teams should be able to overcome a few injuries.

— A rookie is not playing a significant role. If one of Ethan Bear, Evan Bouchard or Kailer Yamamoto makes the team and contributes, that is great, but none should be looked at as difference makers. I think Bear might have the best chance to be in the lineup. I expect Yamamoto to get time to develop in the AHL, which is wise, while Bouchard ends up back in junior and playing for Canada at the World Championships.

— Nugent-Hopkins should surpass his career high of 56 points. He will be playing a lot with McDavid. That doesn’t guarantee him a boatload of points — remember Patrick Maroon had 42 skating shotgun with McDavid — but RNH should become a 60-point player.

— Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson return as a solid, consistent pair.

— Cam Talbot’s SV% is around .917. He doesn’t have to be an all-star, he just needs to be consistent.

— Draisaitl scores 70+ points again. I believe he will score 80 at some point, but he should be a 70-point player.

NEED TO HAPPEN

These are far from locks, and could easily not happen, but the Oilers and their fans would benefit if they did come to fruition.

— Darnell Nurse’s contract stalemate is short lived. The Oilers need him to be sharp to start the season, and Nurse would benefit from having as much interaction with his new defence coach Trent Yawney. He can miss a few days and it won’t matter, but if this stretchers into next weekend then both parties start to lose. Every day Nurse isn’t in camp is an opportunity lost for him to learn Yawney’s new system, and for Yawney to learn more about Nurse.

— A better in-game experience for fans. This has no impact on the game, per se, but for the thousands who pay big money to support the team, an improved experience is needed. Less panning of the crowd and more replays on the big screen, including all goals against. Fans want to see how a goal occurred. Fans sitting at home watching on TV are afforded that luxury, There is zero reason fans in the rink, paying hundreds of dollars, don’t deserve to see what happened too. It is ridiculous that fans have to go online on their phone to watch replays. Also, show some features of stats of the players instead of endlessly panning the crowd so fans can watch another fan be “shocked” or “happy” they are on the big screen. That does nothing to enhance the energy in the rink.

— An unexpected offensive explosion from one of these wingers; Ty Rattie, Tobias Reider, Drake Caggiula or Jesse Puljujarvi. One of them needs to grab the massive opportunity that will be presented to them this season on the right wing. The first and second line RW spots are wide open. Sure, Rattie and Reider are penciled in there to start, but nothing is in pen. At least one of these four players has to grab this glorious opportunity and become a fixture in the top-six regardless of which centre they play with.

— One of the loyal Oilersnation readers is due to win the 50/50. When they do, they will tweet it out and tell the Nation to join them post-game for beers on the house. I guarantee if I win I will host a party for Nation readers and I’m sure Struds (Jason Strudwick) will have all of you crushing some China Whites with him.

PLEASE DON’T HAPPEN

— The Oilers are out of the playoff race in January, AGAIN. I’ve been writing at the Nation for ten years and this is the 16th year of hosting my radio show. The Oilers have been in the playoffs three times, and only once in 12 years. I’m tired of writing and talking about the same trainwreck, and I know Oilers fans are tired of witnessing the same carnage. Enough is enough. This organization needs to find some consistency. For the love of Big Turks, please find a way to not be out of the race in January.

— Rush more young players. I don’t see any rookie who is likely to be a difference maker. Oilers fans shouldn’t be hoping for it and the Oilers definitely shouldn’t be planning for it.

PARTING SHOT…

I’ve noticed suggestions the Drake Caggiula and Mikko Koskinen contracts are why the Oilers haven’t signed Nurse. I don’t see it this way. If each was signed for $500,000 less, the Oilers would have another $1 million in cap space, and I can see validity in saying those contracts should have been lower. However, Nurse isn’t signed because the Oilers don’t have cap space. If he signed long-term I don’t believe he’d sign for the figure offered by the Oilers. Nurse wouldn’t get more than Noah Hanafin, who just signed for $4.9 million, and I don’t sense he’d want to sign long-term for $4.5 million. He hasn’t reached his full potential. And the Oilers aren’t sure of what he will be. He’s played 195 NHL games. I don’t think anyone knows what his level of play will be in two years. He isn’t signed today mainly because of the gap on a two-year deal. It isn’t about a lack of an extra $500,000 in cap space to pay him, it is about looking at comparables for RFA D-men without arbitration.

The Oilers could just meet Nurse’s demands and pay him around $3.5 million, and they might eventually, but that resets a market for RFA defenders. To date, they have opted not to sign Nurse, but it is not because they are in a cap crunch due to Caggiula and Koskinen’s contracts. It is more a business negotiation. Eventually, I assume, the two sides will meet in the middle or close to it.

BE GRATEFUL

I love that we can discuss, agree or disagree about sports at the Nation. It is a great escape from the real world. I try hard to never take for granted I have a job that I love. I’m truly blessed. Some days I get stark reminders about how lucky all of us are, while others can suddenly receive heartbreaking news.

Brent Lauman is a normal guy like all of us. He is a loving husband and father. He and his wife Sabrina have a young daughter. They also found out a few months ago they are expecting a second child. They were pretty happy. Unfortunately that changed in an instant last month.

Sabrina was diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare degenerative, invariably fatal illness that attacks the brain. It affects about one in every one million people per year worldwide. There is no cure, no answers and no way to prolong her life. She was giving a month to live.

Brent is now facing the reality his wife is dying, their second child (about 20 months along) might as well and he will have to raised his two and half year old daughter by himself. As a happily married father to a young son I can’t imagine his pain.

So today we will help him out. I am auctioning off a great sports weekend package on my show from 2-6 p..m. today. Tune in to hear the package and you can bid on it by sending a text to 101260. If you can’t bid on the package but want to support the Laumans you can.

They are hosting an event for them next Thursday evening. Details are here. Or you can donate at their GoFundMe page.

Thanks in advance.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • Soccer Steve

    Please, Jason, please keep being vocal about “a better in-game experience for fans.” You are the voice for those of us that are so tired of an awful rinse-and-repeat schtick that whoever is in charge feels is good enough. It is NOT. It is awful. It is insulting to an extremely smart hockey fan that is Edmonton. I often have my phone at the ready to watch a replay while sitting in the actual arena!

    • 99CupsofCoffey

      I’ve been hearing this for years, and it was the same a few years ago when we watched the PIT game (first game after 97’s injury doh!). Figured they might listen.

    • Are you insinuating that if the team sucks , people should still be entertained? This franchise is about stacks of cash. Fans are secondary. Or is that thirdly?Someone get a hold of K Lowe, he knows a thing or two about two tiered fans and how little they actually mean to the franchise. Forensic audit, visually better, another developmental year. Another year like last year and maybe they will get what they deserve , as in fans ignoring the team, and they have earned it.

      • Soccer Steve

        I have been to many soccer games in Europe. If you’ve never had the pleasure, BELIEVE me, this is not how it is. At all. Those are cathartic experiences. I’ve never been but it seems like high school and college football games in US are similar.
        The Oiler games run on a formula of advertisements gone wild and sensory-overload nonsense. Oh, and crowd pans. Must never forget to squeeze another dozen or so crowd pans.

  • QuitForRealThisTime

    I m sorry but “Connor McDavid will draw more than 35 penalties. In 2017 he drew a league-high 51. Last year he was tied for 7th with 35” and “They will draw more penalties. Edmonton had a league-low 210 powerplays last season.” is a due to the “Oilers Play”. Why the league chose to do this I don’t know but my tinfoil hat is vibrating.

  • The Future Never Comes

    I think McD could realistically get 130 points if he was saddled with Nuge and a finisher for the majority of the season. I think he has more in the tank but is so humble and unselfish at times that he hasn’t went total destroyer mode on the league.

    • NugeOnTopOfMcd

      What do you mean if he “saddled with Nuge”?
      That makes no sense. So if McDavid sat behind Nuge holding him tight so he doesn’t fall off the horse? How does that relate to a hockey reference?
      Weird.

      • The Future Never Comes

        If I were saddled on a horse I would be attached to said horse. McD being attached to Nuge on a line is seen as a positive thing for your reference. Do you have any other questions little fella?

          • The Future Never Comes

            Calgary trolls coming to an Oilers website, how sweet, that means either a. your still an immature attention seeker b. Your parents didnt give you enough attention c. Your not that successful in your every day ventures so you have time to troll d. All the above

          • Top4D

            Calgary troll?
            Here I thought you where the troll using a word like “saddle”
            Good thing there are Social Justice Warriors like you. Keep fighting the good fight you big baby 😂😂😂

          • BobbyCanuck

            Being saddles with someone, means stuck with something inferior, or something you do not want.

            ie. I am saddled with my kids, cause killing them will send me to jail

          • The Future Never Comes

            I don’t comprehend how social justice warriors has to do with anything. That has to do with politics. Maybe your just learning how debate for the first time in one of your college 100 level courses. Anyways, i’ll stop feeding the baby troll from his mom’s basement.

          • Top4D

            You think this is a topic off debate. Hahahaha I was just teasing you, you’re the one that went overboard insulting me.
            You must be a woman because you sure nag like one. As soon as you get stuck in a corner with something you can’t refute, you start sending cheap shots and insults like “you’re a troll” “You must live in your moms basement” “you seek attention”
            Yeah whatever lady. Cry me a river.

          • cityofchampions

            this could be the first time that Serious Gord has ever made a statement that clarifies anything in a positive manner. I don’t think the original poster understood the meaning of “saddled”. You saddle McDavid by putting Lucic, Caggulia, Kassian or other such worthies with him. Putting Nuge and a finisher with McDavid would allow McDavid to show what a thoroughbred he really is.

    • There really isn’t anything unrealistic for McDavid. He’s shattered expectations every season. An improved PP and full season with Nuge could have him bull-doze this league inside-out.

      • Beer_League_Ringer

        There is little doubt that Connor is special. I simply cannot wait until he gets a bit of the attitude that should come with his abilities. I’m not saying he’s going to “Messier” his team mates in the room, just that he has shown he can will the team to win through his leadership (e.g., vs. TBL last year). I honestly think he can drag the Oilers into the playoffs this year.

  • gordo

    first off i appreciate it when you mention something in the real world needing attention, and i will try to help. in my escape from reality worlds i’m mad that chia didn’t sign nurse before caggiulla, and is overpaying, imo, benning, russel, and kassian

  • Top4D

    I’m glad to see Chia playing hardball with Nurse. If he has to start managing cap, what better player than a core player.
    Just shows how overvalued Nurse thinks he really is. If it’s true that it’s over $200-$300k why hasn’t any other team sent him an offer sheet?
    Obviously Nurse isn’t as good as he thinks he is. Even coming into July 1st teams could easily see Oilers cap troubles however still no team sent him an offer sheet. Typical Oilers. They have one good season under their belt and expect a pay day.
    Oilers have to stop paying players according to their potential and start paying for what they can prove.
    Drake and Benning are not over paid. They don’t make anything to begin with. They make exactly what a bottom 6 and 3rd D pairing should make.
    Koskinen pay was what the market had him priced at.

    • Odanada

      Koskinen is a gamble.
      Nurse? I thought he was very good last year. It seems strange to stand firm over the Nurse contract when Chia has overpaid underperformers.

      • heyrayray

        I have a theory on Koskinen. I think him and his 1 year deal are a placeholder, tying up salary to help with Rafa negotiations. When it comes off the books on July 1, along with Cam Talbot, Sergei Bobrovsky will be a free agent. 6.6m is a good head start in those negotiations.

    • Jason Gregor

      Zero. I didn’t buy my grade 10 yearbook because of it. haha…My mom was mad…I just threw the “buy yearbook sheet” they send home with kids in the garbage.

  • TKO

    wow, the list of things that have to change for the better is staggering… takes a lot of faith to assume ALL those things will be better. not likely… this team did not improve at all in the summer, pays several players WAY too much, have huge questions around defense and backup goalie, lack depth up front, and a holdout for training camp on top of it all. essentially, the hope is based on the guys trying harder. good luck with that, I expect them to finish behind San Jose, LA, Anaheim, and calgary, while fighting it out with Arizona and Vancouver for bottom of the division

    • OilerForLife

      In the 2015-16 to 2016-17 seasons, the Oilers went from 70 to 103 points. There was a lot of injuries last year that were the variety that wouldn’t affect the players future careers in any way. There was a family tragedy, and the injuries were very poorly timed, and McDavid had a couple of viruses that lasted a 1 1/2 months early in the season.

      Flames had one major injury the year before last, and The Blame fans pinned it on one injured player. So go ahead and make predictions and underestimate the Oilers, these things can some back and bite you know were.

  • Serious Gord

    Wagering line is pretty darned accurate in assessing what this team is likely to do.

    The list of must happens for the oil to make the playoffs is very long.

    Likely they will be in the playoff hunt most of the season, but an early season injury to just one more key player and they likely will be sellers by the deadline.

    Just no depth on this team.

    • ed from edmonton

      Is this the same wagering line that had them as one of the SC favorites at this time last year? What were the odds for the Knights making the SC final or the Avs making the playoffs last this time last year?

    • BobbyCanuck

      Other teams consistantly go on 10 game tail spins during the season, but they manage to bounce back and make the play-offs, but for the Oilers it seams that any tail spin send them outside of the play-off picture, and this tail spin usually comes at the start of the season, which effectively means we are out of the play-off picture by Remembrance Day, looking at our schedule, I hope it is not so, but all the indicators would point to us being out of well before we should

  • socaldave

    Okay, bare with me – Karlsson joining the Sharks is GOOD for Edmonton. They only play the Sharks 6 times, but SO DOES EVERYONE ELSE. Sharks will finish first with like, I don’t know, 119 points, which means that Oilers can grab the 3rd spot with only 92! Right????????

    ~curls up in a ball and weeps~

  • Abagofpucks

    Also the division is getting stronger with all the trades division rivals are loading up with, and the flames are the smallest average team in the division and you have an old goalie thats ready to calf, good luck with that.
    You foolsnation fans dont even see it coming but your in for a rough ride you better hang on it’s not gonna be good.

  • Still Hate the Flames

    Jason, could you define what a solid season would look like for JP? Do you have a point total in mind? I’m not convinced it’s a lock that he will have a solid season if solid means a significant jump in points. JP is still very much a work in progress and I could see him running in place or with marginal improvement as far as ppg goes this season, especially if he finds himself down in the lineup and with not much pp time. Also, I’m wary of how we’ll stack up against the Pacific this season compared to the past two. Maybe the Paccioretty and Karlsson deals are just making me nervous, but it feels like the Pacific leveled up over the summer…and the Oil are left hoping their internal solutions work out.

  • Kneedroptalbot

    Darnell Nurse, stats from last season, (VS all Oilers Defenceman).
    Pts: 1st, 26
    Assists: 1st, 26
    Plus/Minus: 1st @ +15 (2nd best on entire team)
    Goals: 1st (tied with Klef)
    Pts/GP: 1st (tied with Klef)
    TOI: 2nd @ 22:15, (Klef at 22:51)
    Is Darnell a Core piece of this franchise going forward? (YES).
    Ok Peter/Bob, the ball is in your court

    • ed from edmonton

      I do find it odd that PC (who had just arrived in town) three year ago was willing to gamble on Klef with a long term contract but seems to be taking a hard line with Nurse. Coming out of ELC Klef had played 107 NHL games with 7 goals and 35 point, Nurse 195, 14 goals and 47 points. I understand the cap situation is different now, but I can seen why Nurse expectations may be high.

  • ed from edmonton

    I wonder why Doug Wilson doesn’t win GM of the year every year. Never says boo, never hear any rumours about anything out of SJ, things just happen.

  • rivid

    You’re right about the drake and Mikko contracts. The problem is the Oilers should have let Drake walk or sent him packing for a condition 6th round pick. When you are statically the worst player on the team in every category you should not be on any NHL team. So yes drake should be gone for other reasons and Nurse should have been first priority to sign.

  • Muddy

    After reading the last few paragraphs I forgot about the rest of the article. Made me think about how the little things sometimes get the best of us when in reality people are facing enormous heartbreak. Thanks for the reminder, this snow ain’t all that bad.

  • VK63

    I find it humorous that the WHL Oil Kings received an award related to their marketing and in game events. The Oilers on the other hand…. well, they have the best of digital tools and toys at their disposal but they do not get it done. At all.