Jordan Eberle Is The Fuel That The New York Islanders Needed

Jordan Eberle was hot at the right time and helped power the New York Islanders to another victory last night. With last night’s victory, the Islanders managed to sweep the Pittsburgh Penguins.

In the first period of play, Eberle dominated. In the two videos below, you’ll see Eberle and Mathew Barzal capitalize on a 2-on-1. Barzal and Eberle skate through the neutral zone and go straight to Matt Murray. Once they get to Murray, Barzal throws the puck to Eberle and Eberle wrists the puck past Murray. In the second video, you’ll see Eberle try his luck once again. He tries to put a backhand shot past Murray, but the puck sails a bit too high. While it wasn’t a goal, it was a great scoring chance for Eberle. 

Eberle’s Impact On The Series

Not only did Eberle’s goal help the Islanders best the Pittsburgh Penguins on enemy ice, but he’s been pivotal to the Islanders success in each game during the series. In each game, Eberle has tallied a goal at even strength. 

What’s even more remarkable is that on April 10th, Eberle scored his first playoff goal ever. Yep, first playoff goal. Prior to April 10th, Eberle played in quite a few playoff games. He had played in 13 playoff games with the Edmonton Oilers, but he wasn’t able to light up the lamp in those appearances in an Oilers uniform. You would have thought with the talent (Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and etc) that Eberle had in Edmonton, that he would have had success in scoring goals in the post-season, but that wasn’t the case.

I guess Eberle just needed to wear a different blue/orange/white sweater. It appears that’s all the 28-year-old right-winger needed. 

Barzal/Eberle

It’s also evident that Eberle’s strong play has a lot to do with his line-mate, Mathew Barzal. Like Eberle, Barzal had a great series. Not only did Barzal help set up Eberle on his goal in the first period of last night’s affair, but he also helped set up eight of Eberle’s goals during the regular season. The Islanders’ top line of Anders Lee, Barzal and Eberle is working well and if general manager Lou Lamoriello can re-sign Lee and Eberle in the off-season, they could potentially replicate the same success or do even more damage next year.

Aside from Eberle and Barzal being a great combo, Barzal also showed off his vision, skating and speed last night as he tried to put a goal on the score sheet in the first period. In the video below, you’ll see Barzal cause a breakup in the Islanders zone. Then he skates from zone-to-zone unharmed. He weaves around traffic and takes a backhand shot against Murray. Unfortunately for Barzal, Murray read him well and shut him down, but it was an extraordinary sequence by Barzal. If Barzal continues to play just like that in the next round, the Islanders could keep their opponents up at night.

The Isles Can Prevail Yet Again

With Eberle and Barzal driving the ship, the Islanders can prevail yet again in round two. While we don’t know exactly who they’ll face, the duo was dominant against the Pittsburgh Penguins and there is no question that they can’t replicate their success again in round two. Watch out for these two.

stats from hockey-reference

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals

 

Edmonton Oilers

Puck77 Roundtable: Will The Edmonton Oilers Buy Or Sell?

In our latest roundtable, our contributors and editors discussed whether or not the Edmonton Oilers should be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline.

Tony Ferrari

Whether the Oilers buy or sell at the deadline is put into question with the firing of Peter Chiarelli. If Chiarelli was in charge, he would be buying to save his job and make the playoffs.With that not being the case, I think the Oilers should sell. They have a few players on expiring deals that could fetch them a few draft picks.

Alexander Petrovic is a decent defensemen that can probably fetch a decent return, hopefully at minimum restoring the 3rd round draft pick they gave up to get him not long ago. Cam Talbot is another trade option that still has some value. If they retain salary on his deal they could acquire a decent return from a team looking for a 1B or backup goalie to solidify them for the playoffs. Alex Chiasson is a perfect trade option for a team looking for some depth as he’s produced at a decent level and only makes $650,000 so it doesn’t hinder any team trying to acquire him.

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Selling is the best option for this team right now. They may have to retain salary for the remainder of the season in order to increase the return but on an expiring deal that isn’t an issue. If the Edmonton Oilers can walk away from the deadline having sold off some assets and restock their draft capital, they can begin to turn the team around sooner rather than later. This is what they should do. Don’t be shocked if they take the other route and become buyers.

Matt Sanderson

I feel the Edmonton Oilers should sell at the deadline. Listen, this team has been a mess this year with firing Todd McClellan and now Peter Chiarelli. Outside of Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the Oilers don’t have much help at all for Connor McDavid. The Oilers have $4.92M of cap space left going into next season. If they can open up some space and shop smart in the offseason they will be in a much better place. The problem is there is a handful of guys you can trade but it’s undetermined what the return could be after everything is said and done. With $80M in cap space accumulated there is no wiggle room, I don’t see any other choice but to sell off this season and regroup for next year. McDavid is your future and a solid goalie will be good to grab as well, but in my opinion everyone else is dispensable.

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Kyle Pereira

What would I do if I was the General Manager of the Edmonton Oilers? It starts at this deadline, would I buy or sell?

I would do a little bit of both, and here’s why. Let’s look at all the Stanley Cup contenders, how their teams are built. For the 2015-2017 Pittsburgh Penguins rosters: Top heavy, solid/cheap depth pieces. The Tampa Bay Lightning this year: Stars on top, young/cheap players below. The reoccurring formula for success is top heavy rosters, cheap secondary scoring options. The Oilers have a top heavy roster: Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. However, the rest of the roster is bare; Milan Lucic, Kyle Brodziak and Zack Kassian. The younger guys are also under-achieving: Jesse Puljujarvi, Kailer Yamamoto, and Jujhar Khaira. A change could be beneficial for both Edmonton and the player involved. I would move Puljujarvi, he still has the value to bring back decent draft picks. He’s a solid depth option, and teams could be knocking. This is where the “selling” portion kicks in. They could add in Kassian/Brodziak, as they’re both cheap options. They may be able to get a prospect and picks for those pieces together.

Fact of the matter is, they have the pieces to sell. But they have a great foundation, with a generational talent at the helm, and they need a little bit of depth before they become a contender. With a little swap with other teams, this Edmonton team can be a dynasty.

Chris Bradley

To say that the events that led to former General Manager Peter Chiarelli’s firing escalated quickly would be a lie. This was a slow, smoldering tire fire.

As currently constructed, the Oilers are only three points out of a wild card spot this season. This says more about the state of the Western Conference and the quality of the teams than it does about the Oilers and their ability to hang tough in the fight.

The dismissal of Chiarelli should be viewed as a positive in the Oilers dressing room. Quite often, a shake-up of this magnitude is akin to a trade, a wake-up call for the players. It’s a sign from ownership that changes need to be made and issues are being addressed. It’s no different than when coach Ken Hitchcock took over for Todd McLellan. The Oilers promptly put together an 8-2-1 streak after that move.

But simply handing over the GM keys to Keith Gretzky will likely change very little in on-ice personnel for the Oilers. With numerous bad contracts and little wiggle room with the cap, the notion of becoming buyers to sneak into the playoffs is unreasonable. Sell what you can, and with a little luck they still might catch a wild card spot and bring a little joy to Oiler Nation.

When the season is over, owner Daryl Katz should hop on his private jet and go to Michigan. Pick up former Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, bring him to Rogers Place in Edmonton and open the vault. Let him take what he wants, and in turn give him three years to rebuild this franchise. Yes, Yzerman left Tampa because he wanted to be closer to family. Edmonton is not close to Michigan.

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But money talks. And any opportunity to build a franchise around the best player in the world is worth taking a look at. Nobody thought Mike Babcock would go coach in Toronto either. But the best at their craft want to get paid. Yzerman I’m sure is no different.

Josh Tessler

Unfortunately, Edmonton Oilers fans have had one rough season. In fact, they’ve had many rough seasons. With Oilers Nation frustrated, the front office should be doing their best to install hope. The Oilers should be buyers at the deadline, but they shouldn’t be acquiring rentals. Instead, they should be looking for assets that are under contract for longer. Oilers Nation has seen many rumours about Wayne Simmonds potentially being a fit. But, he’s a free agent on July 1st and Simmonds will command a decent chunk of change. Instead of securing a talented winger like Simmonds, they should be scanning the market for players that can be useful for a couple years and not just for a quick fix.

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They should be looking for players that have a lot of upside. In one of the last posts that I wrote about the Oilers, I suggested that their front office look into acquiring Connor Brown and/or Brayden Schenn. Both forwards have a tremendous amount of upside and would be good fits in the Oilers top six.

They could also look at Andre Burakovsky, who the Washington Capitals have put onto the trade market. While Burakovsky will be a free agent at seasons’ end, he’ll be an RFA. So, he’d still be under team control unless a team offer sheets Burakovsky (which I strongly doubt would happen).

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Stats from Hockey-Reference and NHL.com

Featured Image Photo Credit – Nikos Michals

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!