Joined Lowetide this morning for my weekly segment on TSN 1260. Audio is below:
Knowing what the needs are now heading into the off-season, I’m glad that Chiarelli didn’t buy out Nikitin or Ference last summer which gives him a lot more cap space to play with. It was still painful watching guys like Nurse and Reinhart struggle during parts of the season, and there should be concern about a players development being negatively impacted. But it’s hard to ignore the task list this summer (defence, center depth, backup goalie), making every dollar count heading into free agency and draft day.
When it comes to the trio of Hall, RNH and Eberle, I’m hoping the Oilers can somehow keep all three and see what they can do with a legitimate defence core behind them. I’m a big fan of Hall and was glad to see he bounced back from last season. The last 25-games weren’t his best, but he finished fifth in the league when it comes to even-strength points, and that’s only behind Kane, Crosby, Kuznetsov and Jagr. He finished 11th in the league when it comes to points per 60 at even-strength with 2.30 (Source: War on Ice). You can’t replace that kind of production easily, so I’d be very reluctant to move him. RNH, in my mind, is going to be critical for the Oilers. He’s a better center option in the top six than Draisaitl, who I’m a big fan of but would rather see him slot up and down the lineup, switching from center to wing as needed. And Eberle is still a good producer and he’s a right shot, something the Oilers are lacking in their top six and on the powerplay. If anyone had to go, I’d move Eberle, but would caution that replacing him would require a free agent acquisition. Maaaybe even David Perron, just throwing it out there.
I did like Chiarelli’s comment that he wouldn’t have to move one of the forwards to land a defenceman. This tells me he’s leaning towards acquiring someone that’ll be an RFA this summer on a team that might not be able to afford them. Teams in a cap crunch will need to take back second or third round picks plus prospects (similar to what Chiarelli himself had to take back when he couldn’t afford to pay Johnny Boychuk). Tyson Barrie and Sami Vatanen, both 24, both are solid on the powerplay, with the former being slightly better when it comes to shot suppression. I’ve seen plenty of both. I’d go with Barrie if it came down to either of them.
While we’re on defencemen, I’m finding the whole narrative about Klefbom being injury prone pretty entertaining. If you’re a GM, would you make a player personnel decision on something that’s luck based (like injuries) or something that’s talent based (i.e., shot attempt metrics)? I’d lean towards the latter and bet on Klefbom being just fine going forward.
I also updated the numbers I ran back in January comparing how the Oilers did with Klefbom in the lineup and without this season. Not surprised that the team allowed more shot attempts without Klefbom, but I was somewhat surprised the increase wasn’t that much more substantial.
Another thing that caught my attention was McLellan’s praise of the Hendricks-Letestu-Kassian line at the press conference today. I thought this would be an okay fourth line when I first saw them play together, but I haven’t been impressed. And when I dig into the trio’s possession numbers, I honestly don’t know what McLellan sees in them. Mind you, they’ve been together for about 40 minutes at 5v5, but their CF% (adjusted by Corsica Hockey) is 45.70% and they have a PDO of 105. I think McLellan is a great coach and is the right guy for the job. He just gets a little too attached to players and lines even though they don’t work or can help the team (don’t get me started on Korpikoski). I’d give this trio a chance (if they’re all here next season) but would be very quick to change it up if/when things go south.