Hockey

After Rocky’s pants-shitting at the town hall the other day, my give-a-shit level about this team has reached “Patrick Kane in Late February” territory. Yet still here I am writing about them, so I don’t quite know if that says more about me than Rocky but whatever. Some hockey is better than none I suppose.

These first 3 games out of the gate post-All Star break feature 2 Canadian reschedules bookending a trip to the Purina Factory down in St. Louis. After the aforementioned town hall shenanigans it’s probably best that the team opens up on the road so they can attempt to concentrate on just playing hockey and not dealing with the fallout of their evil Keebler Elf owner’s tirade.

With Alex DeBrincat’s solid showing at the All Star festivities in Vegas, the Hawks look to start the back half of the season out on a high note. Standing in their way are two underperforming Canadian teams and one offensive juggernaut from St. Louis. Here’s hoping the time off did Toews and Kane good, as the Hawks are desperate for scoring from wherever they can get it.

 

2/9 @ Edmonton 

Game Time: 7:00 PM CST

TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720

#FreeMcDavid: Copper N Blue

 

Man, shit has been rough in Edmo since Christmas. With a 5-8 record after Boxing Day, the Oilers spent the entire month of January getting their skulls cracked in, culminating in the amazing press conference where Canadian “hockey journalist” Jim Matheson asked Leon Draisatl why he was “being so pissy” after having to sit through his idiotic questions.

Oh, and they signed Evander Kane after the Sharks got rid of him before the Vegas Good Squads came to kneecap him and leave him for dead in the Nevada desert.

So things haven’t been very rosy for the Oil since the calendar flipped to 2022. They managed to string together a few wins before the Knights completely ethered them 4-0 heading into the all star break. What type of team the Hawks will see is anyone’s guess, but with 2 of the best players in the multiverse on their roster (even if McDavid has a wonky knee right now) Marc-Andre Fleury will have to be on his game to keep them off of the scoresheet. Regardless of how the game goes, Edmonton may end up with the last laugh if the Hawks brass continues to shoot themselves in the dick and hire Peter Chiarelli as their new GM.

 

2/12 @ St. Louis

Gametime: 7:00 CST

TV / Radio – NBCSN, WGN-AM 720

Wretched Hive Of Scum And VillainySTL Gametime

 

This game will not be pretty. We’ve reached the point where the Blues are simply a more “put together” team than the Hawks are, and outside of Alex DeBrincat and maybe Patrick Kane (if he gives a shit) the Hawks just don’t have the firepower to keep up with STL. Jordan Kyrou continues to tear a hole in the atmosphere with his play, and fresh off his first All Star appearance I’m sure he’ll be looking to continue that trend.

It’s not just Kyrou the Hawks have to be aware of, however. While the Blues still can’t completely get away from their special brand of Stupid, they’re definitely a more high powered team than we’re used to seeing. They have 7 skaters with double-digit goal totals, and Vlad Tarasenko has regained the form he lost after missing a shitload of time with multiple shoulder surgeries. Between him, Kyrou, Barbashev and Buchnevich there’s just too much to have to pay attention to.

In net, Jordan Binnington hasn’t been setting the world on fire with his .900 save percentage and 3+ GAA, but Ville Husso (yet another Finnish goalie. Suomi!) has more than picked up the slack with his .940 and 1.91 GAA and is pretty close to claiming the top spot in what has suddenly become a tandem effort.

Also Brandon Saad is here, which hurts me to my core.  *sad trombone*

 

2/14 @ Winnipeg (AKA North Grand Forks)

Gametime: 8:00 CST

TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720

Middle Of Nowhere: Arctic Ice Hockey

 

I’ll never forget how much my buddy Matt hated people from Winnipeg when I went to college in Grand Forks. He was a bartender, and despised working the one weekend a month when they all piled into their RV and drove south to GFK to shop at Walmart (because the Canadian dollar was more valuable at the time) because they didn’t tip for shit. This preview is for you, Matt Hammond.

Anyways, the Jets suck slightly less than the Hawks do. As of right now they sit 6 points up on them with 3 games in hand but are 7 points out of the last wild card spot. Which in Gary Bettman’s NHL may as well be 40, with Loser Points for everyone. Kyle Connor has officially turned into “a thing” as the 2015 1st round pick of the Jets has done nothing but rake at the NHL level since being drafted and may end up being the Jets best choice of all time.

Unfortunately for The Peg, it’s him and Mark Scheifele and not much else. The Jets are mired in the bottom 3rd of the league with the Hawks for 5 on 5 goal scoring despite being 10th in the league in CORSI for. While some of that may be due for a market correction (the team as a whole is top 10 in most advanced stats, but bottom 3rd in shooting percentage), it may simply just be a bad luck year for the Jets forward corps. With Connor HellBuick having a merely average year, most nights the Jets don’t score enough to run with the higher level teams in the west like the Avs and Knights. What they have will most likely be enough against the Hawks, however. Though that’s not exactly something to brag about these days.

 

Hockey

Due to the decade-plus-long streak of Red Wings exceptionalism, it was just a given that Ken Holland was a genius who prolonged the mid-90s dominance constructed by Jimmy Devellano by unearthing gems like Nicklas Lidstrom and Niklas Kronwall and Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. And yeah, that’s quite a foursome to back up the free-spending ways of the Bowman Years.

As time went along, it appeared more and more that Holland simply kept Forrest Gump’ing his way into great players, and as the cap took more and more hold of the league, he simply couldn’t adjust. There were some hideous contracts handed out (Frans Nielsen and Trevor Daley, hello!), while the pipeline went dry for years (remember when Tomas Jurco was going to change the sport forever?). That core that ran the league in the mid-to-late 2000s got old and had not support. And then it all collapsed, and the Wings are still trying to get out from under it. Some began to wonder what Holland’s actual legacy was. Was he just born on third in Detroit?

We’ll find out now, because for some reason Holland decided to take on one of the few bigger messes than Detroit in the NHL, and that’s the Edmonton Oilers.

Perhaps like a couple coaches have, the allure and glow of Connor McDavid is just too strong to ignore. Perhaps the name-recognition of Holland in the sport delays any inklings McDavid might have of demanding out (they have to be there, right?). Or maybe it’s just the truckload of cash dropped at his door. Whatever the reason, Holland is certainly up to the knee in it now.

One thing Holland might be hoping is that simply not being Peter Chiarelli buys him a season or two to assemble a couple more draft picks. The Oilers only hope is to get production out of players on minimal deals to offset the shovelful of horseshit they’re getting from some of their higher-paid players.

Salvation might not be as far away as everyone likes to joke. The Oilers only have McDavid, RNH, Draisaitl, Neal, Chiasson, Klefbom, Russell, Koskinen signed for next year, though they only have $23M in space to fill some 13-14 spaces. The only player they are likely to want to keep is Darnell Nurse, but his play has hardly warranted paying him like the angry Seth Jones we thought he might become a year or two ago. Perhaps Phillip Broberg and Evan Bouchard can join the blue line for cheap help in the next couple seasons. Then again, Broberg was Holland’s first pick and was widely panned. Tigers can’t change their stripes, after all.

Which continued the tradition of what Holland had done in Detroit. Over his last nine drafts in Motor City, after they had stopped picking in the high-20s due to on-ice success, Holland provided only Anathasiou. Mantha, Larkin, and (if we squint) Tyler Bertuzzi. There’s some hope for Svechnikov and Hronek, but needless to say no jury is anywhere close to being back from lunch on them. Without reinforcements from within, all the while swearing that they were just overcooking in Grand Rapids, the Red Wings main roster aged and expensed its way out of competence.

One way to goose the process would be to find a trade, but the Oilers don’t have much to make a splash with. Draisaitl and McDavid are immovable and you’d never get fair value for them anyway. The window to move Ryan Nugent-Hopkins along might very well have passed. He has one more year on his deal after this one before hitting unrestricted free agency, and he’ll only be 27, so the time would be at this deadline. Waiting until the offseason will only lower his value. But then the Oilers would have to find another center or winger to make up for Draisaitl moving back to his natural pivot spot. It’s going to have to be more than Kailer Yamomoto, that’s for sure.

While it would be un-hockey-like, there must be a ticking clock hanging over McDavid as well. If any player could pull an NBA-style “Get Me The Fuck Outta Here” power move, it’s Run CMD. He’s seen the playoffs once in five seasons and patience must be thin. If Holland hasn’t presented something of a plan to his captain, he’s going to have to soon.

Holland needs at least one more year of high picks though, and maybe collecting a few more by selling off whatever’s not tied down. Except there isn’t anything. What would be worth anything at the deadline? Kassian? Maybe Benning? Those are worth low-round picks at best. RNH to someone desperate might be his only hope.

Does Holland have the patience for a slow burn that he didn’t show in Detroit until it was too late? Does he have the luxury considering what McDavid’s mood might be? We’ll see what he’s made of now.

Everything Else

There are so many decisions that Oilers fans would like to mold into a physical object, make it as blunt as possible, and then use it to beat the recently-departed Peter Chiarelli over the head. The Lucic signing, the Hall trade, the lack of any d-men that truly matter, or the lack of wingers that matter even less, and we could keep going. Stalin wishes he could have scorched the Earth quite like this. But one that goes under the radar a bit, because of his age and hope, is that #4 pick on Jesse Puljujarvi.

It’s always easy to play this game, because everyone misses on someone pretty much every year. And really, the only player that Oilers fans can lament that was there instead of Puljujarvi is Matthew Tkachuk, which stings even more as he’s four hours down the road in Calgary driving everyone nuts (in a good way). Still, it’s almost certainly a different landscape for the Oilers if Tkachuk is running alongside Run CMD and leaving either Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Leon Draisaitl, or both, to play center. So we’ll leave that there. There’s also the idea of what the Oilers might have gotten for that pick in a trade, given that they were already lousy with young, pedigreed picks. Perhaps that winger or d-man they’ve been looking for for a decade or more?

Oilers fans could excuse that pick if they thought Puljujarvi was handled right. You won’t find one that thinks that, though. Puljujarvi was tossed into the NHL right from draft day at 18, and most agreed at the time that was a leap. The Oilers were still on a seemingly-endless playoff-less streak then, they would make it that year, and were adding talent wherever they could find it for what they knew to be a serious push with a fully healthy McDavid. Figuring Puljujarvi could just ride shotgun at some point might not have been ludicrous, but it was hopeful at best.

And it’s not like every top-five pick goes straight to the NHL. In the past five drafts, Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett, Michael Del Colle, Dylan Strome, Mitch Marner, Olli Juolevi, Miro Heiskanen, Cale Makar, Elias Pettersson, and Barrett Hayton this year have all taken at least a “gap year.” For some, it’s worked a trick like Marner, Heiskanen, Pettersson. Others are still hoping to prove it was worth the bother, including Strome here in town. There is no hard and fast rule on these things.

Still, those who didn’t come to the NHL right away pretty much made a real impact as soon as they did, and if they haven’t there’s some doubt if they will, like with Strome and Del Colle. Those like Puljujarvi who came straight to the NHL have been impact players from jump street, with names like Kotkaniemi, the dreaded Laramie Tkachuk, Svechnikov, Dahlin, Matthews, Eichel, and the like.

Every player is different obviously, but the thinking is starting to get to be if Puljujarvi were going to be anything, you’d know it by now. 17 goals in 134 games at the top level, and being yo-yoed from the AHL to the NHL is not anything, at least not yet.

When left alone in the AHL his rookie year, Puljujarvi did produce, 28 points in 39 games. Not eye-popping, but the AHL is weird and that’s enough to notice. And that really should have been a platform for him to go on from there. And he hasn’t. And Oilers fans will tell you he still needed more time in the AHL. But these days, impact young players are ready to go pretty damn quickly, or they don’t get there. Maybe they get a year in the AHL, but that’s about it. Look around to most teams and if they have a key piece under 25, chances are they got there pretty swiftly.

On the plus side for the Oilers, Puljujarvi’s lack of sparkle means he won’t make anything coming out of his entry-level deal this summer, and the Oilers need all the cap space they can find. If they can lock him up for even two years on a prove-it deal and he does, that’s production over the investment they’ll be making, which is the exact opposite of everything they’ve been doing. And if he doesn’t, they won’t be out much financially but they’ll be out the opportunity of what they might have had with that #4 pick. And they’ll have to find a way to plug that hole he was supposed to be filling, which could be expensive. Which is how they got into this mess.

 

 

Game #54 Preview Suite

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That’s all we can say. We had to go through several layers of security to get to him, and then found ourselves in a strange location we would not be able to identify. But he seemed to know what he was talking about, so we went with it. Follow him on Twitter @thescottlewis.

With all the noise about the Oilers, and the constant, fair criticisms of their wingers, how does the fact they may have horribly whiffed on Jesse Puljujarvi get missed?
 
If we flashback to the night of the 2016 Draft, the Oilers landing Puljujarvi at No. 4 was viewed as something of a steal at the time. People were busy laughing at the Blue Jackets taking Dubois with the third pick, which has turned out to be a fine selection for them. In a perfect world for the Oilers, they would be trotting out Matthew Tkachuk or Mikhail Sergachev on a nightly basis right now… but it’s the Oilers, so here we are. I’m not ready to close the door on Puljujarvi quite yet, so I’ll chalk it up to another case of management shitting the bed on development. He might still be something. Maybe. Hopefully. Probably not!
 
Is playing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on a wing really a solution? Because it leaves them short at center. Or is this a “cover your head, your feet are cold, cover your feet your head is cold” kind of situation?
 
Personally, I’d love to see him back at center full-time. BUT… he’s producing and his possession totals are looking pretty good so far. It’s definitely a patch job by the coaching staff, so it would be ideal to address the personnel shortage up front sooner than later if this team is to be taken seriously. We’re taking them seriously, right?
 
People seem to be coming for Leon Draisaitl, because he’s not playing with McDavid anymore. Yet he had the same season last year as the one before where he exclusively played with Run CMD, and is a point per game this year. We missing something?
 
To me, the criticism of Draisaitl is a product of his $8.5-million cap hit. He’s proving capable of carrying his own line, even if the possession metrics are pretty ugly so far this season. Canadian blowhards get worked up very easily when a player gets paid, but it’s hard to argue with the production so far. McDavid-Draisaitl ain’t going to be Crosby-Malkin or even Tavares-Matthews, but it’s as good a 1-2 punch you need when No. 1 is Run CMD.
Was it premature to toss that kind of money at Draisaitl right away? Yes. Was it even in the top-5 of GM Peter Chiarelli’s worst decisions since taking over? Nope. Let the kids play and hope you can alleviate the coming cap crunch by sending Milan Lucic to live on a farm in rural Alberta.
 
Our yearly Darnell Nurse update, please. 
 
I soured on Nurse early in his career and didn’t see a whole lot last season to convince me he was ever going to become the player that Hockey Men continued to project him to be. He’s played over 27 minutes in a couple games so far this season, and in my opinion played his best game of the season in the Oilers’ 4-1 win over the Capitals Thursday night. So there’s that.
He’ll turn 24 this season, so it’s becoming less and less likely we’re going to see a huge step forward. At $3.2 million through next season, his ability to command a big raise will be tied to the club’s success. Bottom line, the Oilers need some pieces to improve, and given the fact that a lot of GMs still evaluate players like the old scouts sitting around the table in Moneyball, Nurse might be the Oilers best trade chip.
 
Ryan Strome will probably never live down being traded for Jordan Eberle. But moving to a third line center role at least sees him crushing it possession-wise so far this year. Maybe this is where he belongs?
 
Strome deserves a break on the Eberle chat, simply because that was a Chiarelli crime. It’s doubly frustrating having listened to GMPC cry about the club’s lack of wingers last season after he traded one of the best players in the league with Taylor Hall and a good second-line guy like Eberle. That said, Strome has looked decent in a third-line role while producing absolutely nothing to this point. Some semblance of production would be nice.

 

Game #12 Preview Suite

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BaggedMilk is one of the freaks, very cold freaks, at OilersNation.com. Follow him on Twitter @SBMBaggedMilk. We asked him the same questions as we asked Scott Lewis last week. 

Let’s start with something nice and simple. Why do the¬†Oilers¬†blow chunks?
How much time do you have? The biggest problem (and it’s not close) is that their special teams are a complete and utter disaster. Their PK is on pace to be historically bad, and their power play would be about as effective if they all laid down on the ice and cried for two minutes. Neither of those things make¬†any sense either because their special teams were decent last year, but that’s where we’re at. Happy day.
It seems like the Oilers are finally letting Draisaitl play center full-time. How do they solve their winger crisis? 
Find a better GM that actually knows what he’s doing in terms of evaluating NHL talent? Can I say that? I mean, the guy traded away virtually all of the¬†scoring wingers on the roster to lay down bets on unproven players, so I don’t know how that problem can be rectified if Chiarelli is going to continuously shoot himself in the foot. The dude seems to love making his own job harder and the idea of him actually fixing a problem without creating another is almost a pipe dream.
What dumbass(es) are they going to end up trading Nugent-Hopkins for?
How dare you even put that out into the universe!? Shame on you. He’s just a child. But seriously, though, I’ve been calling the hopefully-never-gonna-but-probably-will-happen Nugent-Hopkins trade #OperationBrownBananas all season because you just know that if he does actually get moved that it will be for some plug like Cal Clutterbuck or some other corpse from Boston or any other equally annoying return. Why? Because Chiarelli loves cheap grit ‚ÄĒ That’s why. For some reason, Peter Chiarelli likes to trade skilled guys for bags of empties, and another blown one-for-one deal almost seems more like a foregone conclusion. All I can really hope for is that he either gets fired before doing something dumb or that someone takes his phone and throws it in the ocean because the Oilers are way better off with RNH in their lineup than without him.
Is Darnell Nurse closer to being the new Chris Pronger that we’ve always hoped he’d be?
Whoa, whoa, pump the breaks there, big fella. I’m a big Nurse guy too but I think that he’s still a few trips around the sun away from being anywhere close to Chris Pronger’s ballpark. That said, the guy has made some huge steps forward with his game, this season. He’s defending well, moves the puck effectively, and has played some big minutes. If he can keep progressing then the Oilers could have something special there, but they have to make sure to have some patience with him. Right now, he’s able to handle the tough minutes with no real pressure but if the Oilers dump a truckload of expectations on him then he could be the next Justin Schultz that crumbles under the pressure here only to flourish somewhere else. I have high hopes for Darnell Nurse, but it’s also going to take some time to get there.
The Oilers are eight points out of a playoff spot? Could they save themselves?
I’d donate a nut to the cause if meant the Oilers could make up those extra points. The honest answer is that I have no idea. There are games when the Oilers look like world beaters and others when they look like a team that should be relegated. When the Oilers are on their game, they can be very good. When they’re not, then we all pray that Connor can save us. So can they make the playoffs? Yes, they can. The real question is whether or not they can keep their heads out of their asses consistently enough to make that happen.

Game #41 Preview

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You can get a pretty decent illustration of just how hockey works, and doesn’t work, via the journeys of Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault.

Let’s start with Smith. Back in the day, when men were men and all that, Smith piled up 58 goals in two seasons at Miami of Ohio. That’s suggests a natural goal-scorer, because you just don’t see players pile up 30-goal seasons in college, especially when they’re not obscenely overaged.

But hey, you gotta give up someone to get someone, and Smith found himself part of the Tyler Seguin trade. Of course, the Seguin trade was just an example of how dumb GMs can be, and Peter Chiarelli is at the head of that list. Smith put up a 20-goal season in his first year in Boston, and then a further 13 the next season. Not exactly a huge season but he’d already flashed secondary scoring talent and at the time was still only 24 and entering his prime.

Coming off those two seasons, the Bruins were certainly up against the cap but after 13 goals and a restricted free agent, the Bruins weren’t going to have to break the bank to keep him. Instead, they punted him to Florida so they could bring Jimmy Hayes home, and basically bringing him home was the only appeal because Jimmy Hayes sucks.

Smith would go on to score 40 goals over two seasons in Florida. Again, you can’t just “find” guys who score 20 goals per season. They’re kind of the whole point of the operation here. And while the Panthers might have their own internal budget, Smith was considered surplus to requirements by Dale Tallon, who apparently thought this was part of his “I’M IN CHARGE AGAIN!” warpath to undo anything that might have had to do with any sort of analysis. We’ll come back to Smith.

Marchessault didn’t quite flash the same way that Smith did below the NHL. Yes, his last season in the QMJHL saw him score 40 goals, but in that league if you can stand up and avoid sneezing during a game you probably get 40 goals. He put up three 20+ goal seasons in the AHL after that, which isn’t easy but also isn’t a neon sign that he has to be called up. He came up for air for about half of a season in ’16-’17 in Tampa, scored seven goals, didn’t really have a way to crack the lineup, and was moved to Florida last season.

There he popped for 30 goals. And while it’s easy to dismiss that, as he’d never hit 30 as a professional anywhere, a 15.5% shooting percentage isn’t stratospheric. And yet, Tallon thought he was expendable, too. A guy who just put up 30 goals.

And this is where things get really funny. In last summer’s expansion draft, Tallon chose the 4F-D model for his protection list. Which left Marchessault and Smith exposed, for the cause of Alex Petrovic and Mark Pysyk. Which doesn’t make any goddamn sense at all. Yes, championship teams can be built from the back and the Panthers are going to need something beyond Keith Yandle and Aaron Ekblad. But Petrovic and Pysyk? They’re ok, maybe even “nice” players. But we all know the adjective “nice” is at best a backhanded compliment. They’re also both 25. If they were going to be anything more than they are, we’d have seen some signs of it by now.

Making it worse, the Knights took Marchessault, because cheap 30-goal scorers just don’t arrive on your doorstep, and then Tallon handed them Smith for a 4th round pick. That’s it. Maybe the Cats needed to dump salary, maybe they didn’t, but Pysyk was making just about the same.

The Florida Panthers are 19th in the league in goals per game, just so you know.

And the story doesn’t end there. Marchessault and Smith have lit it up in Vegas, combining for 25 goals and 68 points so far. Now, if this were a normal world, they’d be doing this for an expansion team that wasn’t going anywhere was was looking three or four years down the line. Both were headed into free agency after the year, Smith restricted and Marchessault into unrestricted. They would have been prized possessions at the deadline for a bunch of teams, where the Knights could have collected high draft picks/prospects that will matter when this team matters.

Except the Knights do matter now. Or at least they think they do. Thanks to whatever you want to attribute it to–insane goaltending, dumb luck in dumb overtime rules, Vegas flu–they sit near the top of the division. So perhaps they thought it would be a tough sell to their burgeoning fanbase to flog two of their three top scorers.

Instead, they extended both for $5 million a year until for the next four years in Smith’s case and the next six in Marchessault’s case. Both will have entered their 30s when their deals are up. It’s not scandalous, but it is curious.

Because if the Knights’ goaltending drops off next year, or they don’t get the overtime results, or visiting teams actually act like professionals, what are the Knights going to want with two scorers in their late 20s that they can’t move? They just eroded a lot of their value. On a normal track, by the time the Knights are really ready to contend, both will be past their primes.

But does anything work the way it’s supposed to now?

 

 

 

Game #40 Preview

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Scott Lewis works for some alternative station in Toronto. He claims he used to work at TSN. We’re not sure. But he’s an Oilers fan, or at least a fair approximation of one. So we let him do this, and rewarded him with many treat pellets as a result. Follow him on Twitter @TheScottLewis.

Why do the Oilers blow chunks?
The Oilers’ struggles begin and end with Peter Chiarelli. They’re thin on the wing after he traded one of the league’s best in Taylor Hall so he could sign his large adult son Milan Lucic. Then he shipped Jordan Eberle out for Ryan Strome, who’s probably got a couple All-Star campaigns in him in the AHL. On top of that Chiarelli values Kris Russell’s severe case of shittiness because he spends most of his ice time chasing the puck around or diving in front of it because he’s shitty. Did I mention he traded picks, including a first rounder that became Matthew Barzal, for Griffin fucking Reinhart? I don’t know how PC hasn’t been levied with a restraining order to stay away from under-25 talent.
Why won’t they just let Draisaitl play center and be deep down the middle like most good teams with Run CMD and RNH as well?
Draisaitl with Hall on the wing was one of the deadliest Oilers duos I’ve watched since 1988. I’m just a former NHL media body and decent EA Sports GM, but I may have given them a run together on the second line with a full healthy season from McDavid on L1. I guess Chiarelli’s self-induced dearth on the wing is why Draisaitl doesn’t see regular duty at center.
What dumbass(es) are they going to end up trading Nugent-Hopkins for?
Seeing as the Oilers are in desperate need of help on the wing, I fully expect GM PC to move RNH for some bag of bones like Radim Vrbata and picks. Maybe James Neal when Las Vegas crashes back to earth. If it’s RNH for an defenceman I’d put money on Cody Ceci. That’s a Chiarelli move for sure. I’m aiming low because I’m a realist.
Is Darnell Nurse closer to being the new Chris Pronger that we’ve always hoped he’d be?
I’m in the Nurse’s shot at becoming a legit top-pairing defenceman ship has sailed camp. It’s hilarious that the Edmonton media went wild for Nurse after he pounded the ever-loving piss out of an unwilling and¬† vulnerable Roman Polak a couple years back. I still think he can be a solid second-pairing D-man. I’d love to be proven wrong here.
Somehow, the Oilers are still only four points out of a playoff spot? Could they save themselves?
I believe the Oilers will make the playoffs. McDavid is that kind of generational talent that can put a team on his back. He’s practically carried Patrick Maroon around the ice in a fanny pack for a couple years now. They’ve effectively wasted the last year of McDavid’s ELC, but I’d wager a bit on them getting in and maybe even upsetting a California team, the Blues, or the Jets. This would buy Chiarelli a couple more years to fuck it all up, which is the McDavid Oilers’ destiny.
Everything Else

You could draw a lot of similarities between the search for a goalie and the search for a quarterback. One aspect that looks an awful lot alike is when a team splurges on what had been a backup to be their starter. You might see it here in town with the Lakeshore 11 and giving up the goods for Jimmy Garoppolo (god help us). In hockey, last year we saw Martin Jones, Cam Talbot, Thomas Greiss, Robin Lehner, and one or two others move from backup roles to starter roles, with varying success. This season Chad Johnson, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and one or two others have seized jobs. Heading into this offseason, Scott Darling could be given starter’s money and responsibilities, and one wonders if someone might not be coaxed to try with Antti Raanta after he walked the same gilded platform that Talbot did, following Henrik Lundqvist.

While Jones did get his team to a Final last year, there’s a serious argument that Talbot has been the biggest success of all of these.