It’s the start of the long weekend and that means your ol’ pal Baggedmilk is back with another dose of Random Thoughts before making my way out to the lake to drink the days away and try to make sense of what’s been going on around here. And like a gift for your Saturday, I’ve emptied my brain into this here blog post with all of the hockey thoughts that have been rolling around in my head over the past week and I invite you all to join me for a leisurely tour of my idea factory.
WELCOME ABOARD, ZACH
Rather than drone on about the length of Zach Hyman’s contract or how much he’s paid on an hourly basis, I’m choosing to look forward to what he’ll bring to the team here in year one. With 15 goals and 33 points in 43 games, Hyman produces at a rate that will help ease the pressure in the top six and that’s a luxury we haven’t had around here in quite some time. This isn’t like crowbarring Ty Rattie into the top-six and hoping it will work, Zach Hyman is legit and that has me feeling hopeful about the results. Not only that, the guy has a ridiculous drive for the puck as you can see in the clip above, and I can’t imagine that having a player type like this won’t be helpful in one way or another. Not only that, the potential for different line combos with him in the mix grows significantly, and I wonder how long it will take until Hyman is partnered with Nugent-Hopkins on the second line while Connor and Leon do their thing up top? No matter what happens or where he slots in, I believe Zach Hyman will help the Oilers when October rolls around and I’m very excited to see what he can do. One question that remains, though, is what number Hyman will wear since #11 is obviously retired around these parts.
DEREK RYAN WILL HELP
I know that bringing in Derek Ryan wasn’t the sexiest free agency signing we saw this week but it’s the kind of depth move that is going to be a boost in the bottom six and it’s going to help win hockey games. The Oilers got their heads kicked in when the third and fourth lines were on the ice, and upgrading some of those slots was absolutely necessary, and Ryan helps achieve that. After the deal was announced, we asked Ryan Pike from Flamesnation to give us a quick rundown on what we’re getting in Derek Ryan and his review was encouraging.
Derek Ryan is a really reliable bottom-six forward. He doesn’t have a lot of flash to his game, but he’s supremely steady and predictable. He kills penalties well, is a good right-side face-off option, and will provide 10-12 minutes a night of anxiety-free hockey. His lack of flash is probably why he’s a fourth-line guy, but he’s a really strong depth player.
If Ryan, a faceoff winning right-shot centreman, can come into Edmonton and be a part of the solution in the bottom half of the lineup then I think it won’t be long until he’s winning fans over, because he puts in the kind of effort that we absolutely love around these parts. And not only that, if Pike is right and this signing will help ease our stress for 10-12 minutes per night then I don’t know how that can be considered anything but a win.
After watching Warren Foegele highlights over the past couple of days, it’s obvious that the guy has wheels and that he will offer a different look on the forecheck. As we all know, the Oilers needed to add more offence into their bottom six and Warren Foegele will certainly help with that, but the cost of acquisition is what’s going to be the sticking point for a lot of people because Ethan Bear was a fan favourite for so many. Once again, Ken Holland gambled that Foegele will help more now than Bear would have and it’s a trade that Oilers fans will be following for years to come as both guys try to make a good first impression with their new teams.
PRESSURE IS ON FOR CODY CECI
Whether it’s fair or not, Cody Ceci will likely start the season in the Adam Larsson slot and that means Oilers fans are going to be directly comparing him to our former Swedish comrade that moved on for the coast. Ceci had himself a decent season in Pittsburgh last year — he registered 4G, 13A for 17 points with an average of 18:31 minutes in 53 games — but the Oilers need a shutdown defenceman that can be relied upon in sticky situations, and that’s not necessarily what comes to mind when I think of Cody Ceci. Now, will he be able to come into Edmonton and build upon the year he had with the Penguins? I certainly hope so because the Oilers are going to need him to do exactly that.
RIP JAMES NEAL ERA
Remember how much fun we had in October a couple of years ago when James Neal was ripping it up in his first few weeks as an Oiler? Good times. Now that he’s officially being bought out — the Oilers save $3.8 million this year and next while carrying $1.916 million in dead cap space for four seasons — I can’t help but think fondly of the time spent mailing thank you notes to the Calgary Flames in honour of the trade. Now, a buyout fresh in our minds, I can’t help but feel that maybe Neal was the right guy for the Oilers at the wrong time, ya know? Earlier in his career, Neal’s silky mitts would have been a dream to have as part of our squad, but as he got older and his boots started to fill with cement, those scoring opportunities were fewer and further between and that’s not a great way to spent $5.7+ million.