Thoughts on the Oilers: Goalies, Player Development and Prospects

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Ty Conklin

Great to see Devan Dubnyk have such a great bounce back season. Beating the Oilers must have felt pretty awesome for him (100 times), but he also had  a pretty solid performance against the Predators last night, another team where things went from bad to worse for him. I know a lot is being said about Sean Burke’s impact on him in Arizona. I’m just curious as to why Burke isn’t having the same impact on Mike Smith, who has been struggling all season.

Worth noting that in the 2013 off season, Dubnyk had to make changes to his game because of new rule changes impacting goalie stick lengths. This story gets a little lost since it’s safe to assume that professional athletes should be able to adjust to rules. But stick length, especially for taller goalies, can have a major impact on the goalie’s posture.

Two inches may not seem like much, but goaltenders grip their stick where the shaft intersects the thicker paddle, so changing that point relative to the ice can force an altered stance or blocker position, opening up holes on the blocker side arm, and even causing balance issues in the crease. [In Goal Magazine]

The full article from that summer on how the changes impacted Dubnyk, Eddie Lack and Robin Lehner is worth a read. Dubnyk had a terrible season after the change and the latter two are still competing for starter positions in Vancouver and Ottawa respectively. Maybe give Dubie a call and find out about this head/trajectory training.

Taking a look at this Matt O’Connor fellow, who has drawn attention from many teams for his performance in college. His history and stats look quite similar to former Oilers netminder Ty Conklin (Source: HockeyDB).

Matt O’Connor
Season Team Lge GP Min GA SO GAA W L T Pct
2010-11 Youngstown Phantoms USHL 29 1713 98 0 3.43 10 16 2 0.886
2011-12 Youngstown Phantoms USHL 50 2886 146 1 3.04 28 16 5 0.902
2012-13 Boston University H-East 19 1110 53 0 2.86 8 8 2 0.910
2013-14 Boston University H-East 22 1224 59 0 2.89 7 9 4 0.920
2014-15 Boston University H-East 25 1518 53 1 2.1 17 3 4 0.929
Ty Conklin
Season Team Lge GP Min GA SO GAA W L T Pct
1995-96 Green Bay Gamblers USHL 30 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1996-97 Green Bay Gamblers USHL 30 1609 86 1 3.21 19 7 1 0.908
1998-99 U. of New Hampshire H-East 22 1338 41 0 1.84 18 3 1 N/A
1999-00 U. of New Hampshire H-East 37 2194 91 1 2.49 22 8 6 0.908
2000-01 U. of New Hampshire H-East 34 2048 70 0 2.05 17 12 5 0.920

Conklin as you may recall, was another good college prospect that the Oilers actually took time to develop in the minors and as a backup before giving him the starter job. It’s easy to recall his horrible 2005/2006 season and his playoff….ah you know what, never mind. The concern with the Oilers chasing O’Connor is that they’ll probably promise him lots of ice time, like they did with Justin Schultz. Any young player would love to fast track his career and would jump at the opportunity to join a team with little depth. This of course is never good for any young prospect as it’s critical for players, goalies and defensemen especially, to develop in the minors first. Unfortunately, the Oilers have built a reputation of being a place where young guys get ice time handed to them and the pressures of winning are non-existent.

Must be fun for fans of playoff teams and bubble teams on trade deadline day. Rather than make a push for anything, the Oilers will likely be off loading an NHL player or two for picks. It’ll also be a good indicator of what MacT’s plans are for the marquee prospects in the system. I’d prefer to see guys like Nurse and Draisaitl spend some time in the minors. But MacT might just be clearing a spot at the deadline for these prospects in the hopes that they’ll be ready for the NHL. It makes no sense to rush these guys who’ll be playing key positions in a few seasons.

Recommended Links

The challenge for Todd Nelson and the Edmonton Oilers is just to avoid embarrassment – Cult of Hockey

Development and the Edmonton Oilers – Cult of Hockey

About Nail – Lowetide

Updated Oilers Possession Stats – Copper and Blue

Are the Oilers Set at Centre Now? – Oilers Rig

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Filtering out the Noise: Laraque/Gazdic and Goalie performance against former teams

LaraqueWithout a doubt, blogging tools such as Twitter have been great tools for fans to share and receive information. The best part about it, however, has been its ability to filter out the junk information that surrounds the game of hockey.

Two great examples today.

A local sports reporter was being interviewed on the radio this morning and suggested a current Oilers enforcer Luke Gazdic was a better player than former Oiler Georges Laraque. It was quickly picked up on Twitter.

Unfortunately, the reporter didn’t back up his assertion, leaving it up to listeners and the online community to correct him. Jonathan Willis of the Cult of Hockey had this to add: Continue reading

Dropping Dubnyk

Source: The Oilers Rig

Source: The Oilers Rig

As expected, the Oilers shipped out goalie Devan Dubnyk. This season has not been his best, but Dubnyk did show a vast improvement from the start of the year. He’s an average to good NHL goalie that had to face a ton of shots playing behind a weak defensive team. A lot of the goals he allowed were magnified nightly mainly because the team did not have enough talent to get one back.

I’ve been a fan of his mainly because of the issues he had to deal with developing in the Oilers system. Keep in mind, when Dubnyk completed his junior career, the Oilers did not even have their own farm team. He was stuck scraping minutes on another club’s farm team, which is challenging as other goalies had higher priority for ice time.

Goaltending is one of those positions that I don’t value as highly as others. In my opinion, you need average goaltending behind a solid system and tactics to have success in the league. Goalies are just too difficult to predict. Far too often you hear stories about goalies almost coming out of nowhere to lead their team to success. An example would be Martin Jones in LA or Viktor Fasth in Anaheim. Both were relative unknowns who have put up some decent numbers playing on well structured teams.

Having said all that, I can appreciate MacTavish making a move that he thinks is best for the team. What I don’t understand is the return he got for Dubnyk. I think a couple other posts put it best: From The Copper and Blue:

Hendricks signed a four-year deal with the Predators as a free agent in July of last year; a deal that comes with an annual cap hit of $1.85M. Oh and he’s 32. In 44 games this season he’s scored two goals and added two assists. His 0.09 points/game this season is well of the areer best of 0.32 that he posted in 2010/11, but if you look at the years in between is probably the type of production that should be expected during his time with the Oilers. The fancy stats don’t put him in a much better light either. His Corsi% this season is 42.3%, lowest among Predators forwards. He has had tough zone starts though, second toughest on the team, but even when you account for that the results are not very good. All signs point to a players who belongs, more often than not, on the fourth line.

From mc79hockey:

It seems to me that there was an obvious alternative: send Dubnyk to Oklahoma City. Sure, it stinks for Dubnyk’s career given that he’s probably looking to drag his save percentage above .900 before he becomes a free agent but then Dubnyk’s career is not the Oilers’ problem. If faced with a choice between what’s best for Dubnyk’s career and what’s best for the Oilers, the decision is simple: do what’s best for the Oilers. The Oilers went another way. At the end of the year he goes. The Oilers get nothing in return but then nothing trumps negative something. There are Hendricks’ available for very little every summer who don’t need four year deals at $1.85MM. The Oilers just ate a ton of risk that Hendricks won’t be able to play in the NHL in a year or two for no apparent reason.

Considering the Oilers used a first round pick to select him and that they spent so much time developing him into a legitimate NHL goalie, it’s hard to understand what problem MacTavish was trying to solve with this trade.

Cutting Room

I find it interesting that MacTavish picked up Ben Scrivens, another goalie who spent time in the LA Kings goalie development system. MacTavish had high praise for Jonathan Quick recently and also pursued Jonathan Bernier in the offseason. Should also note that former Oilers goalie Billy Ranford is one of the goalie coaches in Los Angeles.

It’s getting quite tiresome to constantly hear the Oilers pursuing Alberta born players. Before acquiring Scrivens, who just happens to be from Spruce Grove, Cam Ward, a Sherwood Park resident playing in Carolina, was confirmed to be of interest to the Oilers,

Thoughts on the Oilers: MacTavish on goaltending and coaching

Source: Calgary Sun

Source: Calgary Sun

Oilers GM Craig MacTavish provided some insight into the state of the Oilers in a recent interview with David Staples of the Edmonton Journal. The interview is broken up into four parts, the first of which can be found over at the Cult of Hockey.

Regarding goaltending, MacTavish revealed his hopes that one of his netminders would provide a “spark”, similar to what Jonathan Quick provided the LA Kings.

Quick developed. And he gave them the spark. He was the guy that gave them the spark that ignited that team. The team still has trouble scoring goals but they really were challenged back that year and it was all based on defence and the play of Jonathan Quick.

I find this point interesting only because LA, even though they were on the verge of a breakout, had some decent defencemen in front of Quick. Not to say that Quick isn’t an elite goalie. But I’d like to see how he would do playing behind the current defence core of the Edmonton Oilers. This also explains why MacTavish was after Jonathan Bernier, who was the backup in Los Angeles and developed in the same system as Quick.

MacTavish also provided strong support for head coach Dallas Eakins.

And I would say, absolutely, yeah. I love the coach. To me, he’s done a lot. There’s been a lot of heavy lifting for him. We’re going to have continuity of coaching going forward, which is going to make a big difference going into next year. It’s the same coaching staff, the same messaging. You know how disruptive it is to change coaches. We’re going to have this continuity of coaching. For me, this guy has got the right balance of supporting the players and holding them accountable. There’s an accountability that like.

Even though Eakins is struggling this year, I think it’s critical that they maintain some consistency behind the bench. I think by the end of next year, if things don’t turn around, MacTavish may have to make a change.

I was pretty skeptical about the Oilers hiring MacTavish. The optics were just terrible as another former player was getting the job based on their alumni status rather than their professional credentials. But since his hiring, MacTavish has completely re-done the roster through some excellent, simple, trades and free agent signings. I really do think the team is heading in the right direction and feel a lot more confidence in him over Steve Tambellini.

Highly recommend the entire interview over at Cult of Hockey.

Recommended Links

Did Craig MacTavish Move Ladislav Smid to Calgary Just in Time? – OilersNation

Simple Concepts – The Copper and Blue

 

Thoughts on the Oilers: Losing Streak; MacTavish and Goalies; Omark Traded

Source: Edmonton Oilers

Source: Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers have only three wins in their last ten games. The club is in the midst of a 5-game losing streak and will be hosting the St. Louis Blues this Saturday on Hockey Night in Canada. The way this team is playing, especially defensively and on the powerplay, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the streak continue to finish off 2013. Fun times in Oil Country!

MacTavish and Goalies

Looks like the Oilers will continue rotating between Dubnyk and Bryzgalov until one of them is the clear-cut starter. I’m still hoping Dubnyk can bounce back and reclaim the starter position, but it’s clear that he doesn’t have the confidence of management. Prior to signing Ilya Bryzgalov, the organization had sought other goalies including Ben Bishop from Ottawa back in April and Jonathan Bernier from LA in the summer.  Then there were all sorts of rumors about Ryan Miller being of interest to the Oilers in the early part of the season.

Looking back over the years that MacTavish was head coach, he never seemed to have a clear-cut, elite, number one goalie. Tommy Salo was the starter early in MacTavish’s coaching career, but was phased out to make room for Ty Conklin. Conklin never really panned out, and the organization was forced to have a ridiculous goalie rotation in 2005-2006. The Oilers had to deal a first round pick to acquire Roloson who played a big role in getting the Oilers to the finals in 2006. Roloson appeared to be the guy for MacTavish in 2006-2007, but then split playing time with Mathieu Garon the following year. What stands out in this goalie history is that MacTavish never had the luxury of having a solid, consistent, goaltender, and, because of his experience, likely overvalues elite goaltending.

Omark Trade

The Oilers shipped out Linus Omark yesterday to Buffalo in exchange for a 6th round pick. Omark has a tremendous amount of skill that was showcased in the AHL, where he scored 47 points in 46 games and was heavily relied on by the Oklahoma City coaching staff. Stats like that typically indicate the player could put up some decent numbers in the NHL according to Desjardins equivalency calculation. Unfortunately, Omark didn’t get the right opportunity in the NHL, as he was typically brought up for short stints to play empty minutes on the third and fourth line. There’s an abundance of skilled forwards in Edmonton with higher draft pedigrees than Omark, so hopefully he gets a fair shake in Buffalo.

Here’s hoping we’ll read about his renaissance in a few years, similar to what was recently written about former Oiler Dustin Penner.

Recommended Links

The Linus Omark I Knew (Was the one that surprised me the most) – Tend the Farm

Segla framåt, du begåvade – Lowetide

Fare Thee Well, Linus Omark – The Copper and Blue

Building a Winner – OilersNation

Now Eventually You Do Plan To Have Power, On Your Powerplay, Right? Hello?  – OilersNation

Burke, Value and Truculence – FlamesNation

Thoughts on the Oilers: Winning Streak; Shots on Net; Goaltending; Realistic Expectations

Source: TSN.ca

Source: TSN.ca

Amazing what a three-game winning streak can do. Since the Oilers embarrassing streak of three straight home shutout losses, the team has bounced back scoring 15 goals to defeat the Flames, Blue Jackets and Panthers. In those three wins, the Oilers scored 14 straight goals before allowing one against the Panthers.

Shots, Shots, Shots

The Oilers continue to get more shots on net compared to last season.

The question becomes how good are the shots that the Oilers are taking. Michael Parkatti of Boys on the Bus has been tracking shot quality. His work is well worth reading as shot quality is a critical factor for team success.

The best part about winning is that the Oilers aren’t being mentioned in trade rumors. The majority of the stories being written are about the small things the Oilers are doing well, such as the powerplay and penalty kill.

Goaltending

The other positive of the winning streak is that Devan Dubnyk can continue playing without the chatter of Ilya Bryzgalov taking over. Pretty sure if the Oilers had lost any of the past three games since Bryzgalov joined the Oilers roster, there would be all sorts of content produced about the Russian netminder. I think the signing of Bryzgalov is a good one for the Oilers as they definitely enhanced their tandem. But the additional narratives about Bryzgalov’s character and his run-ins with the media are a bit much. This was quite apparent when he first arrived in Edmonton as very little was asked about his on-ice performance and more about his personality and attitude.

Realistic Expectations

But with all of the positives coming out, there is a harsh reality that the poor start to the season has already cost the team the playoffs. To make the playoffs in the Western Conference, a team would need about 95 points.  For the duration of the season (58 games) the Oilers would need to win games at the same rate as the best teams in the league to make the playoffs. Possible, sure, but the odds are firmly against this roster.

The advanced stats also suggest that the Oilers are headed to their eighth straight year out of the playoffs. Tyler Dellow put together a piece comparing team Corsi rates at the quarter pole of the season and how it’s a fairly clear indication of whether or not a team makes it to the playoffs.

NHL Teams Due to Rise Up, Fall Down Standings – Sportsnet

I can’t say I’m disappointed. My expectation going in to the season was that the Oilers would finish between 10th and 12th place. This was mainly due to the fact the Oilers hired a new coach, started the season with one legit centreman (Boyd Gordon) and that the defense was weak compared to other Western Conference teams.

Recommended Links

Signs of Life – OilersNation

Defense Needed: Apply Within – The Copper and Blue

Of Note: Eakins on Forecheck – mc79hockey

How Devan Dubnyk Got His Groove Back – Oil on Whyte

Get Happy! – Lowetide

Thoughts on the Oilers: Coaching; Captains; Goaltending; and Bad Information

oilers-jets-oct1

Source: Edmonton Journal

When the Oilers season started, I expected the team to chase a final playoff spot. The acquisition of David Perron and the signing of Boyd Gordon and Andrew Ference was a clear indication that the club wanted to compete for a playoff spot, rather than continue developing players.

Fourteen games in, the team has only three wins. They’re playing much better than last year, but the standings aren’t really reflecting that. It’s tough to be optimistic about their chances of making the playoffs, since they’ll need to win more than 60% of their games the rest of the way. It’s definitely possible, but they’ll need a lot of things to go right. Here’s hoping Coach Eakins can turn this club around and get rewarded with wins for their effort.

A few thoughts on the Oilers season thus far.

Coaching

I think the hiring of Eakins as a coach was a great sign that the team was ready to evolve. He has the experience and tactics that could potentially make the team better. What I don’t quite understand is the value he places on fitness. NHL players are typically in great shape already and I know they´ve been getting help from the dhea clinic on trello for their supplements. So I’d think if any of them needed motivation to stay fit, they would be influenced by their own social network.

I’d also be interested to hear Eakins tackle some more challenging questions from the community, such as the ones posted by the crew over at Copper & Blue.

Captaincy

Captains are typically veteran guys that do well with the media, remain heavily involved in the community and serve as a conduit between the coaching staff and the players. Really,  I think 95% of NHL players could potentially be captain, or an assistant. So when a captain is announced, I don’t quite understand the opinions and analysis by fans. In the end, there really is no correlation between the type of captain a team has and the number of wins the team gets.

Goaltending

This is one position that I admire, but don’t value as highly as others. Goalies are just impossible to predict. One season, they’re great. The next, they’re duds. Some goalies are amazing prospects who falter. Others don’t quite mature until late in their careers or after extended seasons overseas.

It never is a good idea to select a goalie early in a draft, which is exactly what the Oilers did selecting Devan Dubnyk in 2004 with a first round pick. Luckily for the Oilers, Dubnyk has developed fairly well and is the clear cut starter for the team. His stats are pretty good, putting him in the middle of the pack of all NHL goalies.

Because of his horrendous start, he’s faced a lot of criticism, most of which is deserved. He has turned it around recently, looking to get back into being the player we expected. Unfortunately, there’s been an endless amount of speculation that the Oilers will replace him with another goaltender, most of whom have similar stats to him or are worse. I understand the desire to go out and get better goaltending. But I think critics are losing sight of the fact that all goalies go through funks, regardless of their draft pedigree.

Bad Information

There is an endless amount of junk information pertaining to hockey. And it gets even worse when the team is struggling on the ice. Case in point: the rumour that the Oilers were willing to part with Nail Yakupov, the number one pick in the 2012 draft, for Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller. At first glance, it’s easy to dismiss because of the salaries involved and the fact that Miller is set to be an unrestricted free agent next summer. Yet this rumour grew and morphed into a beast that made its way on to every major news network. It was especially frustrating to read the negative, unwarranted criticism Yakupov was receiving. Forgotten was his rookie season last year, when he led all rookies in points. The focus has now became his attitude and if he becomes a bust.

Recommended Links

So What Happens Now? A Template for the Rest of the Season – The Copper and Blue

Blame Steve Tambellini – OilersNation

“My bad.” Edmonton Oilers coach Dallas Eakins admits a mistake with “swarm,” tries to correct it. – The Cult of Hockey