Wildnerness

It’s been pretty baffling watching the Jesse Puljujärvi situation play out in real-time. Part of me is annoyed that the club appears to be ignoring the positive on-ice impacts the 24 year old has had since being drafted. But I’m also well aware that this management group doesn’t always grasp what their team’s weaknesses are, has consistently had trouble identifying professional level talent, and very rarely makes well-informed roster decisions. This is an ongoing issue for the franchise, and doesn’t appear to be improving any time soon under the current ownership.

And let’s be very clear on Puljujärvi: his on-ice results (i.e., goal-share) and the shot-share metrics that predict future results all indicate he’s a top-six NHL winger who helps his team spend more time in the offensive zone and increases his team’s odds of out-scoring opponents. You can pick apart how he gets good results and his finishing ability – those are mostly valid. But there’s no question that his strengths have helped his teammates, especially his most common centerman and drives positive results for his team.

In an industry that’s still dominated by conservative, risk-averse individuals and flawed business practices and decision-making processes, he’s become an undervalued asset because of his size and the way he plays and how he’s personally produced. His deficiencies are being perceived to be greater than his strengths – basically a lot of noise that can be debunked with some progressive thinking and statistical analysis. There’s a lot of inefficiencies when it comes to roster construction and decision-making in the NHL, and this is a perfect one to exploit by an intelligent team.

Now I understand too that Puljujärvi’s group have probably recognized that the Oilers are not very deep on the right-side and might be asking for too much in negotiations, and that could be a reason why the Oilers prefer to move on from him. But this is why you need to identify talent as early on as possible through proper scouting and statistical analysis, and be willing to take on some risk by signing these players long-term earlier in their careers. “Over-ripening” isn’t an efficient approach in a cap world and the Oilers are now in a position of weakness in the trade market and at risk of losing a good player when his value is at its lowest.

The hope now is that the Oilers don’t get robbed in a trade, which has become a regular thing since Holland arrived. Whoever the replacement is for Puljujärvi, they need to be someone that can have a positive impact at even-strength, with and without top end linemates, and can be deployed against top competition. Based on the rumors out there, I’m not seeing any viable options unless the Oilers are planning to take on someone that’s a longer term project. The team has three seasons left with McDavid and Draisaitl to push for a championship, so whoever is acquired needs to make an immediate impact.

Related:

Data: Natural Stat Trick

Also posted at The Copper & Blue.

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