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Quick Hits: Playoffs, the Draft and Oilers Thoughts

For the third consecutive draft lottery, the Edmonton Oilers’ draft position dropped.

In 2016 they dropped from second to 4th.

In 2018 they dropped from ninth to 10th.

And this year they fell from seventh to eighth.

The lottery was put in place to eliminate perceived tanking and it does. It is all about luck.

DRAFT LOTTERY

Bill Daly holds the card showing that the Edmonton Oilers will select 10th overall in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.

The Colorado Avalanche entered the draft lottery in the top spot last year and this year (courtesy of owning Ottawa’s pick) and both times they fell to fourth overall. I’m sure they are disappointed, but that’s the reality of the draft lottery. There are no guarantees.

Please stop complaining about the Oilers winning the final game of the regular season in Calgary. “Had they lost they’d have been where the Rangers were and would have the second overall pick,” is a loser mentality. You can’t ask players to lose games on purpose.

And by the way, New Jersey won their final game of the regular season and that kept them in 29th place, and allowed them to win the lottery. The Devils, Kings, Sabres, Rangers, Oilers and Ducks all won their final game of the season. The Kings, Oilers and Rangers beat playoff teams. You never know who will win a game at any point of the season so complaining about winning the final game of the season makes little sense to me.

I’m more interested to see who will be available at #8.

Forwards Kirby Dach, Dylan Cozens, Vasili Podkolzin, Matthew Boldy, Trevor Zegras and Alex Turcotte, or defencemen Bowen Byram, Philip Broberg, Victor Soderstrom might be there depending on who goes third-seventh. Every year someone drops who people have higher, while another player jumps up. Either way, the Oilers should get a good prospect. Most important will be how they develop him.

Do not rush him.
Do not rush him.
Do not rush him.

If the organization just repeats that over and over then the odds of this pick panning out will increase significantly.

OILERS NEWS…

In his press conference, Bob Nicholson mentioned there were some people he was 99% certain he would retain. I’ve done some digging and it sounds like two people he was referring to were goalie coach Dustin Schwartz and video coach Jeremy Coupal.

I didn’t expect every person in the organization to be let go. I’d argue the changes in management are needed the most based on the previous track record of trades and signings at the pro level.

I hear many complain about how no Oilers goalie has improved under Schwartz. I would politely disagree.

Do you remember Cam Talbot’s first year in Edmonton? He needed six weeks to refine his game in November and December. Schwartz and Talbot worked a lot on technique, but also on the mental side. In 2017 Talbot had an outstanding season. Continuity between a goalie and the coach is crucial.

We all saw some of the struggles of Mikko Koskinen. There are valid reasons why Oilers fans have trepidation and concerns about Koskinen as the starter moving forward. That is totally fair. I think he was overworked down the stretch and that made the final month look worse than what he is capable of. I don’t see him as a top-end starter, but if he improves his footwork and the team’s defensive play improves in front of him I think he could be a .913 to .915 goalie. Not elite, but not awful. The main point is the new GM needs to sign a competent, quality backup so Koskinen only has to play 55-58 games.

But we shouldn’t expect any goalie coach to be a magician. He can’t magically fix Koskinen’s weaknesses instantly. There isn’t enough time during the regular season to fix it. Koskinen was able to improve some elements of his game. He was awful on dead angle shots at the start of the season, mainly because he hadn’t had to face sharp angle shots in the KHL. In the NHL players fire pucks from the goal line regularly. Koskinen was pulling off the puck, he wasn’t square on those shots. He did improve there.

He was also very aggressive early in the season, and he became calmer. He made some strides, but the concern is: can he improve more? In an interview with Kevin Woodley from In Goal Magazine, he outlined what he’d seen as weaknesses in Koskinen’s game. Footwork was a much bigger issue than his glove hand, which was exposed a lot in the final month. Koskinen needs to work on his footwork around the posts as well.

It is fair to have some concern about his glove hand, but goalies across the league got beat up high. Players shoot there much more now. A goalie is always going to get beat up there now more than ever, because players shoot at the top of the net much more regularly.

Koskinen’s improvement is vital and I believe it is better to have continuity with a goalie coach, rather than bring in another one and muddy the waters. The major issue with Koskinen is his contract and his overall ability. I don’t blame either of those on a goalie coach. He can try to improve his technique, but like any coach, if the player is only a “B-” talent, the coach can’t make him an “A” calibre player.

Schwartz has been Carter Hart’s goalie coach since he was 12. People rave about Hart, and he still works with Schwartz in the summer. I know that Flyers goalie coach, Kim Dillabaugh, and Schwartz discuss specific things about Hart. And I know that Cam Talbot’s goalie coach used to come to Edmonton for a few weeks before the season started and he and Schwartz were also discussing things. If I’m the new GM, I make sure that Schwartz and Koskinen’s goalie coach in Finland are on the same page. If I have to fly Koskinen and his goalie coach here for three weeks before the season, I do it. Open lines of communication must improve for this organization.

I didn’t agree with Nicholson waiting for the GM to make moves in management, but I understand why Nicholson would want to keep Schwartz. I believe the major changes needed to occur in management this off-season. I’d argue about the merits of keeping Trent Yawney as defence coach for this exact reason. Giving the blueliners a third defence coach in three years is not ideal. I’d look at keeping Manny Vivieros as well, but I’d actually use him. The fact he wasn’t running the powerplay, the area he excels at, illustrated another flaw in the organization.

With coaching, too much change isn’t good. Just change the areas that have had very little so far: upper management.

PLAYOFFS…

Toronto Maple Leafs fans react to the Boston Bruins fourth goal while watching game 7 third period NHL action against the Boston Bruins at Maple Leafs Square in Toronto on Monday May 13, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

So after the whining and complaining from the Atlantic Division about the playoff format being unfair, it turns out it isn’t. Toronto finished two points out of eighth place, and one point ahead of seventh place Carolina. Is Boston really facing that tougher of an opponent in round one? No. Stop needless complaints about the playoff format. It is great. I’d rather have divisional rivalries, than a 1 vs. 8 format where it varies by a measly one point.

Also, the Western Conference playoff matchups would be the exact same if you had 1 v. 8 or the current division/wildcard matchups. The only change I would make, is if four teams from each division make it then everyone stays in their division. That aligns with the NHL’s idea of ‘division rivalries are good for the game’. So make that minor change, and stick with the current format. It is much better than 1 v. 8.

This year’s playoff matchups are very intriguing. I don’t see many easy first round picks. I think Tampa got the worst possible matchup for them, based on how Sergei Bobrovsky has played down the stretch. I realize he doesn’t have the best playoff track record, but he has the ability to steal a series. That one might be closer than we think.

Here are my pics. Feel free to mock them, but only if you put your picks in the comment sections.

East

Tampa in seven. Jackets battle hard, but still come up short in search of their first playoff series win.

Boston in five. Leafs’ defensive concerns make it a short series.

Washington in six. The defending champs know how to win.

Pittsburgh in six. The Islanders’ lack of offence catches up with them. Crosby has been very good all season and he lights up the Islanders.

West

Calgary in six. They have too much offensive depth, but the Avs win a few games early to make the Flames earn it.

San Jose in seven. I expect it to be very high scoring. I’ve been wrong on Vegas for two years, so I will remain stubbornly oblivious to their success.

Dallas in six. Upset special. The Stars play great team defence, and I like their top-end forwards better than the Predators.

Jets in seven. The Blues have been great since January, but in game seven the Jets’ top-end forwards are better.

I have Capitals, Bruins, Jets and Sharks in Conference Finals and then the Sharks and Caps for the Cup. Sharks win.

Who do you like?

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • McHitch

    Following this team for 30 years I believe there is a 5% chance we draft a difference maker at 8th overall.

    I can almost guarantee we ruin another prospect.

    Do you think Connor wants to wait 4/5 years for said player to develop. Do you think we have a choice here?

    We need to move the pick for a scoring winger or top 4 d on a value contract. We could trade the pick to dump salary as well. Either way we need to improve for puck drop next year or we lose Connor.

    Wake up.

    We need to get into the playoffs next year or hes gone.

    • McHitch

      Two words for anyone who thinks we cannot get a top 4 d on a solid contract for 8th overall.

      Jake Muzzin.

      (Btw our pick is much higher than what the leafs offered)

      • McHitch

        Leddy, Boychuk, Hamilton, etc.

        None traded for anything close to a top 10 pick. We have an asset to move. Lets improve the team before its too late.

        Can any of you honestly say you can stand another season of non playoffs? I am getting to the point of not caring anymore, one more year and personally im done.

        Patience… ive been patient. No more prospects, no more picks. Enough.

        • McHitch

          Oiler Domination to Follow

          10 fn years.

          Gags, Cogs, Nilsson.

          Hope.

          Nuge2yak

          HallzyEbs

          ConnorDrai.

          This is rebuild 6.0.

          Give me a break. Keep the pick. Give your heads a shake.

          • Ass Eatn Szn 69

            we dont have the cap space to improve the team by trading the pick. If we did, are they capable of winning the trade and identifying a useful piece. They have proven they are not.

            You trade it and get two years and than someone is a UFA and gone, not good asset management.

            Seattle expansion, lose control of an asset, not good asset management.

            We are not in this mess because we are not trading draft picks, we are in the mess because we did trade draft picks, because we traded skill for size, and because we could not win a trade.

            Due to where the team is right now,we are stuck with small tweaks and promoting from bakersfield.

            The only other option is a calgary/canes type trade. Something hypothetically like (not saying either team would do this)

            Nurse, Khiari, Benning and a 2nd for Huberdeau, Vatrano and Pysyk, which would mean gambling on Sekera Healthy all year.

        • McHitch

          Why dont you tell Connor we are going to use the pick to improve 4 years from now.

          Im sure that will fly well. He seems happy being patient and waiting for the ship to turn around.

          • Ass Eatn Szn 69

            Connor is not stupid, he knows there is not much to be done until lucic is gone. He knows, that small tweaks emphasizing skill are needed. Its going to take a year or two. And he also knows it will come, he just wants to stop seeing moves like spooner, petrovic, and manning being made, unless they are the ones on the way out.

          • McHitch

            Connor used to have his Dad drive up to Erie to walk him off the ledge when they werent winning.

            Its documented.

            You think 4/5 years not making it in the nhl will fly. There is zero chance of Connor staying if we dont make the playoffs next year.

          • Hemmercules

            I think even Connor knows that this cant be fixed in one season. He has 12.5 million reasons to stick around for at least a couple more years and then he can move on if there is no signs of improvement. In the event he does ask for a trade, his value is never going to be low. The oilers should be able to get an entire first line for him in a trade. Every team in the NHL will want him too so there will be options.

  • Ass Eatn Szn 69

    Gregor is whether it is complaining about the playoff format or not, it sounds like most fans want a change. Rivalries aside. If thats what the fans want, listen to the fans.

    Also I don’t think people are complaining about winning the last game against the flames, maybe some are. But most people are just pointing out the irony that if we lost maybe we would be adding Kakko.

  • OldOilerFan

    I’ve questioned a lot all year long about why Manny Viveros was not running the power play, something of which he was specifically hyped about at the start of the season to do. First time I’ve seen anyone bring it up in an article questioning it….

  • Derian Hatcher

    I’m confused…BN says there are people in the organization he is 99% sure of retaining.

    Isn’t that the new GM’s call? Am I missing something here?

  • Kevwan

    I think Gregor is 4 for 4 in the East and maybe 0 for 4 in the West. I like the Avs, Knights, and Preds. I think the Blues -Jets are game 7 in OT close. I’ll take the Blues

  • Gravis82

    “Please stop complaining about the Oilers winning the final game of the regular season in Calgary. “Had they lost they’d have been where the Rangers were and would have the second overall pick,” is a loser mentality. You can’t ask players to lose games on purpose.” Is missing the point. Our GM thought we had a chance and did no sell of assetts. We could have recieved draft picks for those and have a higher draft position. This is not loser mentality, this is called strategic thinking. It has nothing to do with the players. Once we are out of it, cut losses and prepare for next year. If the players are pouty big deal, they get paid millions to play.

  • Ted

    Best hockey playoff rounds are usually in the first rounds … The hunger is strong! Flames gone in four No goaltender! And frustrate hand shake Johnny and it’s over!

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    If The Oilers retain Schwartz, I see no improvement coming in our goaltenders. I disagree, Talbots success is due more to Rangers Goalie Coach Francois Allaire Lundquist and Talbot both did well under his direction and that translated a lot into Talbots success the first year, Schwartz IMHO got Talbot into some bad habits and hence his second year was brutal and same with this season Explain how Schwartz wasnt able to fix Talbots game in a season and a half…

    • Dallas Eakins Hair

      whoops that should be Benoit Allaire not his brother Francois who is a great golatending coach in his own right, but it was Benoit that Talbot and Lunquvist worked under since 2011