Edmonton Oilers

Edmonton Oilers: Thinking Outside the Box

The Edmonton Oilers have a big problem with Ryan Spooner.

That’s not news. The sky is blue, Connor McDavid is the most skilled player in the NHL, and you can still find me in the stands cheering on this team. Some things, unfortunately so in some cases, never change.

My weird love/hate relationship with this team aside the Edmonton Oilers find themselves trapped by one of Peter Chiarelli’s final moves (man does typing that feel good!). However now is the time to start correcting those mistakes and I think there’s an outside solution to the Spooner problem.

Buried in the AHL

It was announced on January 23, 2019 that both Kailer Yamamoto and Ryan Spooner were assigned to the AHL:

The former being there makes sense in the short term, as Yamamoto can play a few games in Bakersfield over the all star break or in the long-term. Personally I feel like Yamamoto should stay the rest of the season on the AHL so he can be a key cog in Bakersfield’s playoff push/run. The latter on the other hand is a different story. Spooner has failed so spectacularly in Edmonton that they no longer feel he is anything but a detriment to the team.

My first ever post on ThePuck77 was on Ryan Spooner and in it I stated that Edmonton needed to find a lineup spot for Spooner that works for him. I won’t go into too much detail on him here but my main points were:

  1. Ryan Spooner is not an offensive driver
  2. Ryan Spooner was, at his most successful, a good 3rd piece of a top 6 line.
  3. He benefited greatly from being on top power-play units
  4. He is a really ineffective possession player.

If you want more in depth analysis on Spooner check out my first piece on him here.

Someone Similar?

You would think this situation would be rare in the NHL. Not many teams employ 3+ million dollar men in the AHL…

But there is another…

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Yes that’s right I’m talking about Sam “8 points in one game” Gagner.

Gagner has been a very nice addition to the Toronto Marlies roster since being sent down. In 36 games thus far Gagner has 10 goals and 22 assists for 32 points. He definitely isn’t letting his demotion slow him down any. Even when he has played in the NHL he was not that poor. In 7 NHL games Gagner had 3 points, 1 goal, 2 assists. He has also been very good in terms of possession at the NHL level, posting a surprising 59.9% Corsi rating, and a 15.2 Corsi relative for rating. This, along with his 59.9% Fenwick for rating and 17.4 Fenwick relative for rating, paint a picture of a player who has more to give at the NHL level.

Gagner does a lot of things well that mesh with the Oilers needs right now. While he does have some warts to his game in regards to defending Edmonton at current needs a guy who is an offensive weapon. Gagner is a power-play, overtime, and shootout specialist. Put in the right situation; i.e on the left side of a Connor McDavid/Leon Draisaitl power-play, should result in increased success for Edmonton’s power-play.

Power-play Prowess

For example in 2016/17 he had 50 points, 18 of which came on the power-play. In 2017/2018, in his first year with Canucks (way lower teammate quality), he had 31 points, 11 of which were on the power-play.

In 2016/17 Gagner played on a unit with Zach Werenski, Nick Foglino, Cam Atkinson, and Alex Wennberg. on a much less successful Vancouver power-play Gagner played with a mix of Alex Edler, Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser, both Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Sven Baertschi, and Thomas Vanek. Vancouver struggled to find the right mix of players and eventually Gagner got lost in the shuffle. He ended up struggling to the point where he was demoted to the AHL at the beginning of this season.

Wherever Gagner goes he always finds a way on to that team’s power-play because that is where he excels. He is an extremely gifted offensive player who has a good shot and is extremely creative with the puck. The thing that he is the best at on the power-play is MOVING. The Edmonton Oilers power-play right now has stagnated. This is mainly due to the same issue that plagued them last year. They are too slow. they do not move the puck around enough to properly open up seams and lanes in an opposing team’s penalty kill. This kills them and they need a player like Gagner that can keep the puck moving on the power-play.

Is This Trade Realistic?

This is always the huge question with the hypothetical articles. It’s why I don’t enjoy making these speculation articles in general, do it wrong and you immediately can ruin your credibility as a writer. 

However in this case I think there’s a realistic possibility a trade like this could work. Right now at left-wing the Canucks employ Nikolai Goldobin, Sven Baertschi, Josh Leivo, Loui Eriksson, and Antoine Roussel. Goldobin has 23 points, Eriksson has 20, Leivo has 7, Baertschi has 13, and Roussel has 19. It’s safe to say they could use a boost. Edmonton currently employs Alex Chiasson, Milan Lucic, Jesse Puljujarvi, Jujhar Khaira, Tobias Reider, and I could go on at wing. Outside of Chiasson none of those players have 20 points, outside of Khaira, none have 15 points. Edmonton needs wingers bad.

So a swap of two players that both make almost exactly the same amount of money, that could potentially re-spark their careers makes a lot of sense. Gagner makes 50k more than Spooner at 3.15 million over the same amount of term. At current neither of Spooner or Gagner are going to see the light of day back in the NHL with their respective teams. It makes sense, at least to me to try to swap the two players in the hopes that they could re-find their offense elsewhere.

Wrap Up

The main reason this probably won’t happen is Vancouver and Edmonton are teams both currently in a dog fight for the last wildcard spot. While it would be an interesting trade as it would create a potential double rental situation if both Spooner and Gagner bounce back, the risk involved nixes that trade.

What do you think? is this trade realistic for both sides? leave a comment or find us on twitter at @ThePuck77 and me personally at @chayzdj.

All stats used in this article came from HockeyReference.com, Capfriendly.com, and HockeyDB.com.

 

 

Edmonton Oilers

Edmonton Oilers: Promoting Mediocrity and Failing Upwards, Part Two Redux

When reading part two of my series, I realized some things I had left out.

This was brought to my attention by some nice people on the oilers.nhl.com forums. While some of my omissions were on purpose, such as the Kruger firing or the Fayne/Pouliot contracts. I didn’t properly explain what my criteria was for inclusion in my article, and for that I apologize.

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Why I Omitted Anything

Well in all honesty it was mainly due to length. These things take a lot of research and Craig MacTavish has a very big black book. After two weeks of on and off research I compiled a list and starting writing. Draft one of my article was over 2200 words, which is far far too long for a comprehensible article. It had turned into a novella instead of an article so I needed to cut some things out.

To do this I decided to take what was reported as his role by this video by TSN and focus my criticisms around that role. His roles, as stated in the article, circulate around the Bakersfield Condors, and on pro scouting, so I put my focus around that. I decided that focusing on his ability to see talent and analyze players properly would more properly illustrate his lack of skill in management.

Things Omitted and Justification

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1. The Ralph Krueger Dallas Eakins fiasco.

This, while egregiously and utterly ridiculous, had nothing to do with his ability to see talent in players. Furthermore it isn’t unnatural to see a new GM bring in their own guy as coach. We saw it with Todd McLellan when Chiarelli was brought in, even though Todd Nelson was doing a fine job in an interim role. While I believe firing Krueger was a mistake, especially over Skype, Eakins was highly regarded at the time. Although he ended up being a disaster and set the team back years I don’t blame the change squarely on MacTavish, but that’s a topic for part three.

2.  Fayne contract.

This one I didn’t include because I touched on it in part 1. Also talking about free agency is a little tricky as as bad as Fayne turned out to be, I doubt that contract was 100% due to choice. I know Edmonton was close on Stralman, but eventually lost out to Tampa Bay.

Edmonton was extremely bare on defense and at forward in the summer of  2014. Edmonton lost Nick Schultz, Anton Belov, Ladislav Smid, and Phil Larsen and needed some replacements. MacTavish and Co. ended up filling those voids with Mark Fayne, Nikita Nikitin, and Keith Aulie. The free agent market that year was headlined by Anton Stralman, Matt Niskanen, Christian Erhoff, Kyle Quincey, and Dan Boyle.

  • Stralman signed a contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning
  • Niskanen signed a contract with the Washington Capitals
  • Erhoff signed a contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins
  • Kyle Quincey signed a contract with by the Detroit Red Wings
  • Dan Boyle signed a contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You know what all these teams had in common? well they were all in or close to being in the playoffs. Good players go where they know they can make an impact on a good team. Edmonton was 28th that year. While it’s not clear what other players they looked at I don’t blame MacT for Fayne. I blame Howson and the rest of the pro-scouting department for overvaluing the player.

Ultimately it was their job to present MacTavish with targets and it was MacTavish’s job to try to sign the players the scouting dept. brought to him. Fayne had a total of 48 points in 242 career games as a Devil and was given a 4 year 3.65 AAV contract by the Oilers. I could almost guarantee after his last 2 year 1.3 AAV contract most teams weren’t offering more than 3, maybe even 2.5 but Edmonton ponied up 3.6 million…

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3.  Pouliot Contract.

Well for the same reason I didn’t include Fayne I didn’t include Pouliot. Edmonton was not a destination for free agents and still has trouble with them today. The top 5 forwards available in free agency that year were Paul Statsny, Thomas Vanek, Jarome Iginla, Mike Cammalleri, and Daniel Alfredsson. Isn’t it wild that that used to be a list of quality NHL players 4 years ago? Three of those guys are out of the league and Vanek and Statsny are no longer the stars they once were, anyway:

  • Statsny signed a contract with the St. Louis Blues
  • Vanek signed a contract with the Minnesota Wild
  • Iginla signed a contract with the Colorado Avalanche
  • Cammalleri signed a contract with the New Jersey Devils
  • Alfredsson signed a contract with the Detroit Red Wings

Again, all of these teams were contenders at the time and I doubt any of the above players had Edmonton on their lists. Pouliot brought short term value to Edmonton and unfortunately was damaging to the long term success of the Oilers. His sudden drop out and subsequent buyout ended up hurting the team, which while unfortunate can’t be blamed on management. I would consider this to be a fair signing, given the circumstance. At the very least an argument can be made to justify the addition. 5 years is a lot of term on a third line player, but the 4 million AAV wasn’t horrible.

4.  Craig MacTavish’s draft trades

Honestly the only reason I didn’t talk about this is because I forgot to mention it. I pinned it in my research and I just forgot to add it in. It does however demonstrate some interesting logic from Oilers brass. This is an excerpt from an Edmonton Journal article from 2013.

“Craig MacTavish twice traded one draft pick for three lower ones. The net effect was the exchange of the #37 selection for FIVE picks in the #83-113 range. Theoretically, each spot yielded a player with about a ~20% chance of playing 100 games in the NHL, according to Cullen’s research. If one of the five achieves that minor milestone, that will be about average for players taken in this range. If two or more do — or better, if one really turns out — Stu MacGregor and staff will have beaten the odds.” – Bruce McCurdy

This was actually a really interesting bit of information. The logic here isn’t completely off base. If you have an excellent scouting department that can make good picks consistently, such as Edmonton’s current regiment under Bob Green and Keith Gretzky, I can see the value in this Idea.

However,

Head scout Stu MacGregor was a not a good head scout, his record speaks for itself. He was responsible for the three 1st round picks in 2007 that turned into Sam Gagner, Alex Plante, and Riley Nash. Yikes. Here’s a list of second round picks he drafted: Anton Lander, Tyler Pitlick, David Musil, Mitchell Moroz, and Marc-Olivier Roy. Woof. None of those players are in the Oilers organization and only 1 still has any NHL/AHL contract. That’s right, save Pitlick, this list of players is not even AHL quality.

So while the logic was there the ability to actually put the principle into practice was not and it cost both MacGregor and MacTavish their jobs. To put this even more into perspective here’s a list of Oilers draft picks under MacGregor that are still with the Oilers organization:

  1. Leon Draisaitl
  2. William Lagesson
  3. Tyler Vesel
  4. Darnell Nurse
  5. Jujhar Khaira
  6. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
  7. Oscar Klefbom
  8. Tobias Reider

In his draft career as head of scouting from 2007-2014 Stu MacGregor drafted 61 different players. After all of that drafting, 8 are still with the organization. Not. Good. Enough.

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Wrap-up

Hopefully that clears up some if not all of the issues that came up with my original part two. I am so happy with how well this series has resonated with readers. It has given me the opportunity to engage and interact with fans in a way that I personally haven’t had in my short writing career. I appreciate the comments and how far this has spread and 100% welcome more comments/criticisms that get sent my way. Furthermore, this has been the most fun I’ve had researching and writing and am so glad it’s resonating with all of you out there.

Get ready for part three when I talk about the worst offender of the bunch!