Thoughts on the Oilers: 2014/2015 Season, Forwards, Defence, Goaltending

Leon Draisaitl

Leon Draisaitl

This is year two of the MacTavish-Eakins era and needless to say, there has to be progress following last season’s train wreck.

Forwards

I think the new additions will be a massive boost to the club. Experience still counts in this league, so it’s refreshing to see guys like Pouliot and Purcell flanking a very young and developing core. Both are still in their primes, making serious money. But both should be counted on for secondary scoring.

The top six overall looks like a legit NHL group. But because of the weaknesses at centre, this club is one injury away from entering the McDavid sweepstakes. There is never a good reason to keep a player under 20 on your roster, unless he’s Crosby or Ovechkin. And again the Oilers will be relying on a young prospect to produce with Draisatl securing the second line centre position. Here’s hoping he can at least get the softer minutes (i.e., offensive zone face offs, power play time, against easier competition). With such a glaring hole at centre, I think most assumed the Oilers would’ve sought out a veteran player like Derek Roy or Derek Legwand.

Defence

This group is definitely an improvement from last season, with the addition of Fayne and Nikitin. But it is still far from being a top NHL caliber group. Guys like Schultz, Klefbom, Marincin and Nurse are still developing, but will likely be asked to play high end minutes. If this club can stay healthy, and the team is smart enough to keep Petry long-term, I think they can compete well in their division. My expectations when it comes to how they play as a unit is much higher with the addition of Craig Ramsay on the staff. It’ll be interesting to see if he can find a way to better utilize this group and find some success in 5-on-5 situations.

Goaltending

This is one area where I’m still unsure about. If the coaching staff can limit the ridiculous amount of clean zone entries and two-on-ones like last year, I think this tandem is good enough. But if those same defensive lapses and poor coverage emerge from last season, no goalie will stand a chance. Here’s hoping some stronger possession play through all three zones will help the goalies. From what I saw last year and the pre-season, I’m predicting Fasth comes out as the clear cut number one goalie by November.

Bold Predictions

Regardless of the glaring hole at centre and the question mark in net, I think there’s a lot of potential in this current roster. The wings have a lot of talent and experience, and stack up well against the top teams in the league. The defence has improved with new roster players and the addition of Ramsay. MacTavish has brought in proven possession players with experience, which should hopefully translate to less time scrambling and chasing the puck. An additional 10 wins from last season isn’t asking for much, so I’m predicting they make a jump up to 10th in the west this season.

2013/2014 Season:

29-44-9
67 PTS
203 GF
270 GA
14th in the West

2014/2015 Predictions:

39-36-7
85 PTS
220 GF
240 GA
10th in the West

Top Scorer: Taylor Hall
Best defenceman*: Jeff Petry
Likely to get dealt: David Perron

*Based on boxcars and advanced stats

Recommended Links

The Autumn Leaves Drift by My Window – Lowetide

Are We There Yet? – Copper and Blue

Oilers Rig Podcast – The Oilers Rig

Oilers Positives and Negatives 2013-2014

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Source: O.Canada.com

It’s disappointing when something doesn’t meet your expectations. It’s even more disappointing when your expectations weren’t even that high to begin with.

My prediction at the start of the year was that the Oilers would finish between 10th and 12th in the west. RNH was recovering from shoulder surgery. Gagner got hurt in pre-season. And, compared to playoff teams from last year, the Oilers defensive core lacked NHL talent and experience. Add to the fact you had a coaching staff with very little experience and a very young top-six, I just couldn’t see this club making the playoffs as a wild card.

Going through my Oilers posts from this season, I’ve compiled what I think were the positives (believe it or not, there were some) and negatives.

Continue reading

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