Quick Hits: Playoffs, the Draft and Oilers Thoughts

Jason Gregor
4 years ago
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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?

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