The Oilers are 25-29-6. After 40 games they had a 19-18-3 record. They’ve gone 6-11-3 in their past 20 games. They’d be almost assuredly out of the playoffs if it wasn’t for a historically bad playoff race. Things haven’t gone as Oilers fans had hoped. Let’s take a look at whose trending up and down after 60 games.
Zack Kassian has 12 points in his last 20 games. He’s spent a good chunk of time playing as McDavid’s right winger and been surprisingly effective. Kassian’s getting hot at the right time. The trade deadline is coming up and Kassian might be attractive as a tough winger who can put up a few points. Kassian’s 1.9-million cap hit isn’t egregious, but the Oilers have to shed salary somewhere and Kassian can be replaced with a player making under a million.
Kassian is a player whose physicality and toughness might get overvalued around the trade deadline. Alex Chiasson shows you can sign a guy for under a million and he’ll give you almost everything you’d want in a depth player. I’m not opposed to keeping Kassian, but the Oilers have to dump money and Kassian might be a luxury at this point.
Draisaitl is en fuego. His 36 goals are just behind Alex Ovechkin, Patrick Kane, and Jeff Skinner. Draisaitl even had two points against Arizona when McDavid was out with the flu.
I like the idea of Draisaitl playing with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins instead of McDavid. We know McDavid and Draisaitl are fantastic together, and sure, playing them together might give Draisaitl an outside chance at the Rocket Richard Trophy, but I’d still play Nugent-Hopkins and Draisaitl together for the rest of the season. Let them build chemistry and see if they can be two parts a good second line for the Oilers next season. McDavid will play well with just about anyone. I like McDavid with two lesser players because it allows a Draisatil/RNH combo to face secondary opposition. There’s no reason Sam Gagner or other depth players can’t rotate on McDavid’s line for the last 22 games.
The Bakersfield Condors
The Condors have won 15 straight and they deserve some love over a club that routinely loses. The Oilers are finally giving their prospects minutes. Tyler Benson has 43 points in 48 games. Cooper Marody is a point-per-game player in the AHL. Logan Day is a right-shot defenceman with 27 points in 45 games. He’s on an AHL contract but will probably get an NHL deal. Shane Starrett has a .916 save percentage through 27 games.
This is a bad season for the Oilers but at least their minor-league team has some positives. Maybe things turn around if a few of these guys can be NHL contributors in the next couple years. The Condors have a handful of players who are legitimate NHL prospects, which is something you couldn’t say about the Oilers’ AHL affiliate for years.
Now the Oilers must resist calling them up after the deadline. Let them dominate in the AHL for the majority of the season. I’d consider giving Benson and Starrett a couple of games at the end of the season to give them a taste of NHL hockey, but that’s about it.
The Koskinen contract will always perplex me. There was no need for it. It was insane. Koskinen hasn’t been good. Koskinen has a .906 save percentage in 34 game, which isn’t good enough or worth $4.5 million per year for the next three seasons.
Koskinen’s made 15 appearances in the Oilers’ past 20 games. He’s had a save percentage above .900 in five of those games. That’s not good enough, even with some questionable defensive play around him. I was in favour of leaving both goaltenders unsigned and reevaluating at the end of the season. There’s always goalies available due to the number of starting positions in the NHL. The Islanders signed Robin Lehner for $1.5 million for one year last summer. He has a .928 save percentage in 33 games.
It’s hard to fault Chiasson. He already has 17 goals and only makes $650 thousand. Chiasson’s already provided more offence than most of the Oilers’ wingers, but he’s been in a slump. Chiasson has 1 goal in his past 20 games. He wasn’t going to shoot 30% forever. It’d be nice if his hot streak was closer to the deadline, but he should still fetch a third-round pick and maybe the Oilers revisit a contract in the offseason.
Chiasson’s still one of the most productive Oilers wingers, but his hot streak has cooled down.
The Oilers have completely mishandled Puljujarvi’s development, but Puljujarvi is still trending down. I thought they should have let Puljujarvi stay in Bakersfield after McLellan’s firing. I get Hitchcock felt he could be a positive influence and help Puljujarvi, but he wasn’t playing him and there’s no point having him here to play with Kyle Brodziak or Colby Cave.
Puljujarvi has just two points in his last 14 games. He has nine points in 46 games this season. No one thought Puljujarvi would be in this situation three years after being draft.