Andrew Ferrence

Oilers Predictions Part 2 – The Defense

I talked about the forward group for 2015 here.

The Oilers have 10 Defencemen who I believe will be in contention to make the team out of training camp and there will be some upset fans when the team decides to send players to the minors even though they may have outplayed veterans in training camp. The candidates are: Andrej Sekera, Oscar Klefbom, Mark Fayne, Justin Shultz, Eric Gryba, Nikita Nikitin, Andrew Ferrence, Griffin Reinhart, Darnell Nurse and Brandon Davidson. It will not surprise me in the least if any of Nurse, Reinhart or Davidson outplay Ferrence or Nikitin in training camp but unless there are men going on the injury reserved list I will be shocked if any of the three make the team. Ferrence is currently the team captain and while his on ice performance leaves alot to be desired over the last couple of seasons he is by all accounts a good captain and a needed presence in the dressing room. This combined with a veteran coach who is more likely to trust veteran D-men will most likely result in the following lineup on D:

Left D Right D
Andrej Sekera Mark Fayne
Oscar Klefbom Justin Shultz
Andrew Ferrence Eric Gryba
Nikita Nikitin

Sekera goes a long way to legitimize the Oilers D but they sure have a long way to go. The top pairing of Sekera and Fayne will have a hard time playing the tough minutes against the best players in the NHL but there really isn’t any other choice, Klefbom has shown some ability to face tough competition but he’ll be anchored once again by Justin Shultz so will likely be put into easier situations. The 3rd pairing of Ferrence and Gryba will most likely have Nikitin subing in for either guy on a regular basis and the pairing will play limited minutes 5×5 and a good chunk of the penalty kill.

Here are the big questions with this D:

  1. Will Justin Shultz learn to play defense and become an actual top 4 NHL defencemen? This is a big deal, Shultz could easily get passed by Nurse or Reinhart this season and be gone before next season begins.
  2. Does Nikita Nikitin belong in the NHL? Nikitin will have the opportunity to prove that he belongs and the potential is there that he could be playing top 4 minutes this season, although he could just as easily be a healthy scratch most of the season and go back to Russia when its all over.
  3. Does Andrew Ferrence have anything left in the tank? Ferrence is on the down slope of his career but he’s a warrior and may have enough in the tank for another season. Used in correct situations and limited minutes I think he can still contribute to the Oilers but I don’t see how he doesn’t get passed by Nurse, Reinhart and Davidson.
  4. How long will it take for Nurse and Reinhart to make an impact? They’ll both start in the AHL but at some point this season they’ll both get a chance and I don’t think either will disappoint. Between injuries or trades spots will come available for these two and once they get to to the NHL they won’t be sent back down.
  5. Will Brandon Davidson get lost in the shuffle? Brandon Davidson will have a future in the NHL, this kid just doesn’t give up! The problem however in Edmonton is that he has too many guys ahead of him even though they may only be there based on experience and not ability. If Davidson doesn’t make the team out of camp he will need to clear waivers to be sent to the AHL.

Is the Defense Better This Season?

Here is the players usage from opening night last year:

Player Minutes
Justin Shultz 23:28
Brad Hunt 20:13
Nikita Nikitin 18:55
Mark Fayne 18:19
Jeff Petry 17:42
Andrew Ferrence 17:40

Dallas Eakins was clearly on crack! With Shultz and Hunt leading the D in minutes its no wonder Ben Scrivens lost his confidence in net. Clearly the coaching staff will have a large impact on how the D performs this year just by putting the right players in the right situation. Oh and btw while Brad Hunt played over 20 minutes in that game Oscar Klefbom sat in the press box.

Taylor Hall

Oilers Predictions Part 1 – The Forwards

So much has happened with the Oilers this off-season, they finally have a competent management group and coaching staff, they’ve drafted the best prospect in the past 30 years in Connor McDavid, and brought in Cam Talbot, Griffin Reinhart, Andrej Sekera, Lauri Korpikoski, Mark Letestu and Eric Gryba. Think about that. Crazy.

As I see things this is the Oilers forward depth chart:

Left Wing Center Right Wing
Taylor Hall Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Jordan Eberle
Benoit Pouliot Connor McDavid Nail Yakipov
Lauri Korpikoski Anton Lander Teddy Purcell
Matt Hendricks Mark Letestu Tyler Pitlick
Rob Klinkhammer Leon Draisaitl Andrew Miller
Luke Gazdic Bogdan Yakimov Iiro Pakarinen

Todd McLellan has a history of using a fighter on the fourth line which is good news for Luke Gazdic and bad news for both Andrew Miller and Iiro Pakarinen. With such a young team as well I think veterans will have the advantage when there is competition for key roles (2nd line RW). With that said here is my prediction for the the line combinations:

Left Wing Center Right Wing
Benoit Pouliot Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Jordan Eberle
Taylor Hall Connor McDavid Teddy Purcell
Lauri Korpikoski Anton Lander Nail Yakipov
Matt Hendricks Mark Letestu Luke Gazdic
Press Box: Rob Klinkhammer Tyler Pitlick

I just can’t resist putting Hall and McDavid together, they’re going to have a blast and honestly I only have them on the 2nd line hoping that apposing teams play their toughs against the Nuge line. Teddy Purcell’s experience gets him the opportunity to play on McDavids wing, he’s training hard this summer and if he can keep up with the kids he could earn a good payday next offseason. On the 2nd err… 1st line I have Pouliot, Nuge and Ebs back together. These guys had a lot of success last season and they’ll either be taking the tough at bats giving the McDavid line easy minutes or they’ll be making 2nd pairing D-men look silly.

Seriously. Which of those two lines would you match your number 1 pairing against?

The 3rd line is a bit of a question mark for me, can Lander build on the season he had last year or does he regress without Todd Nelson behind the bench? Can Lauri Korpikoski bounce back after having a dreadful offensive season last year or is he on the down side of his career? Can Yakipov play without Derek Roy? All three of these guys have something to prove, especially Nail Yakipov. Some in the media are already calling him a bust and I admit he has some holes in his game and maybe brings a little too much chaos but when he scores it pure joy and I’ll be cheering for him all season.

Luke Gazdic makes the team so that he can punch faces while Rob Klinkhammer and Tyler Pitlick get to watch from the pressbox. Some may not agree with Draisaitl going to the AHL but I just can’t see him winning an opening night job from the above guys, he’ll be the first call up and may well stick once he gets a chance.

Photo by Sarah Connors

The Cost of Todd McLellan

The Oilers announced today the hiring of Todd McLellan who most recently coached team Canada to the gold metal at the Mens World Hockey Championships and prior to that coached the San Jose Sharks for 7 seasons. The hiring does come at a price however as San Jose has the right and apparently is going to exercise that right to receive a 3rd draft pick from the Oilers as compensation. Even though San Jose fired McLellan at the end of the regular season he has one year left on his contract which gives the team the right to compensation. As far as I understand it the Oilers have the ability to wait up to 3 years to give up the pick.

Honestly this rule makes little sense to me, if San Jose fired the coach they shouldn’t have any right to claim compensation if the coach signs with another team.

More On McLellan

In the seven years McLellan has been the head coach of the Sharks they have been a dominant team in the regular season and were consistently one of the best teams in the league with the man advantage. In todays press conference McLellan was asked about the lack of success his team had in the playoffs while he was head coach and his response was that he felt they had a lot of success but were defeated by great teams some of which went on the win the Stanley cup. In the six years that McLellans Sharks were knocked out of the playoffs they lost to these teams:

Year Team that beat the Sharks Result
2009 Anaheim Ducks 1st Round Anaheim lost to Detroit in round 2
2010 Chicago Blackhawks Conference Final Chicago won the Stanley cup
2011 Vancouver Canucks Conference Final Vancouver lost to the Bruins in the finals
2012 St Louis Blues 1st Round STL lost to LA in the 2nd round
2013 LA Kings in 2nd round LA lost to CHI in conference final
2014 LA Kings in 1st round LA won the Stanley cup

They did lose to some really good teams and twice those teams went on to win the Stanley cup but in 62 games the Sharks had 30 wins and 32 loses. I would call the Sharks performance in the playoffs a disappointment under McLellan but it sure beats what the Oilers have been doing for the past 9 years. I’m really excited to see how the team performs under McLellan and if the World Championship tournament is any indication he’s sure to get a lot of production out of Hall and Eberle who were both among the tournament scoring leaders.

How Much Longer Is This Gonna Take?

The new faces in the Oilers front office clearly don’t want to give any timelines for the Oilers making the playoffs but it has to be a goal to at least be in the fight next season. The team will be better by adding Connor McDavid at the draft and I think Todd McLellan is an upgrade behind the bench, its up to Peter Chiarelli to find the right Goalie and Defensemen to push this team in the right direction.

Will Peter Chiarelli Make Bold Moves?

The Edmonton Oilers have given full control of the Oilers to Peter Chiarelli, naming him President of Hockey Operations and General Manager. Chiarelli is going to take a few weeks to assess the team and players to see exactly where his positions of strength and weakness are before making any moves, but he will make moves. Given his track record of making big trades in Boston I think we can expect a big trade or two this summer.

The Weaknesses

The weaknesses on the Oilers are pretty obvious, they need a starting goalie and they need a couple of top pairing defensemen if they want a shot at making the playoffs next season. They may have an opportunity to get a piece or two via free agency but typically that requires an overpayment and I’m not sure thats a good idea in Edmonton so I expect Chiarelli to make a couple of trades to fill these areas.

The Strengths

The Oilers have a lot of young skilled forwards that other teams would covet very highly. Its been a topic of hot debate amongst Oilers fan and the media whether or not the Oilers should trade one of the young stars to bring in a missing piece and I think now is the time.

Connor McDavid is on his way to Edmonton and he will really change the complexion of the top 6, for the first time is recent memory the Oilers will have some depth at C but it really isn’t a position that they should be trading from. They have McDavid, Nuge, Lander, Drai and Gordon which is a fine depth chart imo but there isn’t enough depth there to make a trade and still expect to be successful.

On the wing however they do have a position of strength to deal from, any one of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle or Nail Yakupov could on the move. Its much easier to fill in holes on the wing than it is at Center or Defense which is why I think there is a good chance that Chiarelli will move one of those players.

Another area of strength the team has is on the farm club, there are a few young defensemen in the system who look to have a pretty good shot at a successful NHL career who could be bundled with other players or picks to bring in a top end player.

The Extra Pieces

If Chiarelli can manage to bring in a couple of top pairing or even top 4 defensemen there will be a couple of guys he may be trying to dump, mainly Nikita Nikitin, Andrew Ferrence and Justin Shultz. The Nikitin trade and signing is one of the black marks on MacT’s resume, he is clearly not capable of playing top 4 minutes on an NHL team but MacT paid him like one and marketed him as one as well. If Chiarelli can move the contract or even buy out Nikitin it will go a long way to helping the Oilers manage the salary cap.

When Andrew Ferrence became a UFA in Boston Chiarelli was in no hurry to sign him so he came to Edmonton to collect a handsome salary and be named captain of the team. I expect Chiarelli will be able to move Ferrence either in the summer or at some point during the season.

The other name I have here is future Norris candidate Justin Shultz. Shultz has not progressed since joining the Oilers and it can be argued that he has actually regressed. At this point he’s at best a 3rd pairing defensemen but he’s getting paid like a top 4 and Chiarelli will either see his issues and move him for a more useful piece or see his potential and put him in a position that he can learn the game and succeed.

The Vision

It was clear from watching the press conference of Chiarelli’s hiring that he feels the Oilers need to be a ‘heavier’ team, he talked about teams that play heavy and win battles but are not necessarily really big players. He communicated very well that they need to work much harder on and off the ice and need to find the right mix of players to bring speed and size. Would trading a player like Jordan Eberle or Nail Yakupov for a top 4 defensemen and replacing them with a player more similar to Benoit Pouliot who can play a heavy game and still compliment his highly skilled linemates be a step in the right direction?

Hold on Oilers fans, we may be in for a summer full of debate, excitement and (hopefully not) regret. I expect to see a much different Oilers team in training camp than we’ve seen to finish the 2014/15 season.

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Will Bob Nicholson Clean House?

Yeah. I thinks so.

If Nicholson had finished his evaluation of the current management group and concluded that they were the right group going forward he would have made that announcement by now but it was clear in his press conference that he wants to wait until the playoffs are over.

The only reason to wait for the end of the playoffs before an announcement is he has decided that the current group just isn’t getting the job done but hasn’t settled on the replacements yet. There may be potential pieces to this puzzle who are currently working for other teams and Bob hasn’t yet had the chance to recruit them.

I think we’ll see Kevin Lowe, Scott Howson and Craig MacTavish relieved of their duties before the draft and the new management team announced followed shortly with an announcement of who the new coach will be.

Bob Nicholson has so many hockey connections to guys that would be great for the job there is no doubt in my mind that he’ll put together a winning combination and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Peter Chiarelli is involved at some level.

What About The Coach

Todd Nelson did an admiral job down the stretch for the Oilers considering the roster he had to work with but if the Oilers are serious about making the playoffs next season they’re going to need more experience behind the bench. Like everybody else I would love to see Mike Babcock come to Edmonton when his contract expires in Detroit at the end of the season and there is a real strong connection between Babcock and Nicholson so you never know. Winning the draft lottery and the right to draft Connor McDavid really makes Edmonton a much more attractive destination for prospective coaches, so I really think bringing in Babcock is within the realm of possibilities.

Outside of Babcock I would give Todd McLellan really strong consideration and we know the Oilers have already reached out to McLellan to gauge his interest. It will be interesting to see how McLellan uses Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle in the up coming world championships where he has been named the head coach.

I’ve heard a lot of people suggesting to keep Todd Nelson or recruit Dan Bylsma as an associate coach but honestly I would like to see the Oilers make a decision on the head coach and then let him pick his assistants.

The Oilers Win Connor McDavid!

About the only thing the Edmonton Oilers can win in recent history is the draft lottery and they’ve done it again. Unless something really crazy happens the Oilers will select Connor McDavid with the first overall pick who has been projected to be a generational talent similar to Sydney Crosby so I thought it would be a good idea to do some comparisons.

These are stats from the draft years for Connor McDavid, Sydney Crosby, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov

Connor McDavid

47gp 44g 76a 120pts (2.55ppg)

Sydney Crosby

62gp 66g 102a 168pts (2.70ppg)

Taylor Hall

57gp 40g 66a 106pts (1.85ppg)

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

69gp 31g 75a 106pts (1.53ppg)

Nail Yakupov

42gp 31g 38a 69pts (1.64ppg)

Clearly McDavid is much closer to Crosby than he is to any of the other 1st round picks the Oilers have had, so what will this mean for the Oilers going forward and the young core already in place? Sydney Crosby scored 39 goals and 102 points in his rookie season and while I don’t think its fair to expect similar numbers from McDavid I do think he’ll be the Oilers #1 line centre this season and score at a point per game pace. So if the Oilers go with McDavid and Nuge as the top 2 centres is there any point in signing Roy to an extension, and does this make Leon Draisatl a key piece that will bring in a stud D-man or #1 goalie?

Its interesting to me that both McDavid and Roy shoot left, perhaps it would work to resign Roy and have him centre Mcdavid and Yak until McDavid is comfortable enough to move to centre.

Eakins Fired in Edmonton!

The Oilers have finally fired Dallas Eakins today and reportedly MacTavish will step back behind the bench as the interim head coach until the team can find a more permanent replacement.

There is also talk that perhaps Todd Nelson could join the team and I for one would be a fan of that move.

UPDATE: Todd Nelson To The Rescue

In the press conference MacT announced that he will be stepping into the head coaching role solely as a transition to Todd Nelson who will take the job for the remainder of the season.

I’m a fan of Todd Nelson so its nice to see him get a chance, and to be honest I think that he has a great opportunity here. The team is better than the record suggests and is bound to turn things around as the lucky bounces start to go their way so Nelson should be more than capable to post a much better record for the remainder of the season than Eakins had for the first portion. We’ll see if its enough to turn this into a permanent role, but I for one will be pulling for him.

Edmonton Oilers vs Calgary Flames

LuckyImage by hillary h

Ok, so Calgary is having a pretty great season so far right? I mean their 3 points away from leading the entire NHL after going 9-5-2 in their first 16 games, not bad for a team that most people thought would be battling Buffalo for last. Meanwhile the Oilers have 13 pts in their first 15 games and sit just 1 point out of last place in the western conference. Obviously the Flames are a better team right? No, of course not, lets take a deeper look.


PDO is found by adding a teams save percentage to a teams shooting percentage and over a large sample size all teams will approach a PDO of 100 or about a .920 save percentage and an 8% shooting percentage. This means that we can use PDO to predict if a team has been getting lucky bounces and will regress or vise versa if a team has been unlucky and will improve. The Calgary flames have a PDO of 103.15 which is the first indication that they’re just not as good as the early standings suggest, they have an above average save percentage (932.5) and an above average shooting percentage (9.91) which will surely regress. The Oilers on the other hand have a PDO of 97.11 on a shooting percentage of 7.16 and a save percentage of .899, both of which are under league average and will surely rebound. So based on PDO its pretty easy to predict that the Oilers will climb in the standings while the Flames will fall in the standings.


I’m going to use Corsi for percentage (CF%) to show which team is leading the way on possession. A Corsi event is any shot attempt on goal including blocked shots, missed shots and shots on goal and CF% is the percentage of total Corsi events that were generated by a team. For example if there are 50 shots attempts taken in a game and EDM generated 30 of those attempts then their CF% would be 60% and the opposing team would be 40%. The Calgary Flames have a CF% of 43% so far this season, that means that out of every 100 shot attempts 43 of them have been by Calgary and 57 of them have been against Calgary. The Oilers on the other hand have a CF% of 51.4% which is such a fantastic thing to see after all these years of getting outshot every game. These numbers are a pretty clear indication that the Oilers are the superior possession team and overtime should surpass Calgary in the standings.

Face Off Location

The Flames have taken 25.69% of their faceoffs in the offensive zone and 36.02% in the defensive zone. Good teams that possess the puck don’t take nearly as many defensive zone faceoffs as the Flames and take many more in the offensive zone. The Oilers on the other hand take 32.66% in the offensive zone and 29.01 in the defensive zone.

Goals For Percentage

The Flames have scored 55.2% of the goals in their games so far this season which is really incredible considering they’ve only had 45.6% of the shots. Pretty lucky. The Oilers on the other hand have only scored 41.3% of the goals in their games even though they’ve had 49.7% of the shots.

The Oilers Are Just Better

The Oilers are off to a rough start but the underlying numbers indicate that they’re actually playing pretty good hockey and could be fighting for a playoff spot in April.

Oilers Sign Tkachev …. Or Not!

UPDATE: The NHL has ruled that the entry level contract that the Oilers have signed with Tkachev is ineligible due to the fact that he did not play a full season in the North America last season. Tkachev will re-enter the draft next season because Oilers.

The Oilers have signed Vladdy Hockey to a 3 year entry level contract this morning. The move will most likely turn alot of heads because of Tkachev’s size (he’s reportedly only 141 lbs) but I’m thrilled they could add such a skilled player to the system for nothing but money. Tkachev has had a great pre-season run with the Oilers and has certainly earned the 3 year deal which will likely keep the player in the system for the next 5 seasons as he is eligible to return to Jr for 2 more years.

Of course many will point out that Tkachev is a long shot to ever make the NHL because of his size alone and to be honest I completely agree. He’ll definitely need to beef up if he ever stands a chance to play in the NHL but I love that the Oilers are giving him the opportunity. He certainly adds a lot of skill to the system and even if he never plays an NHL game there is value having him play along side other prospects to help their game. The fact that Bogdam Yakimov is in the conversation to make the team out of camp this season has a lot to due with having Tkachev on his wing for a large portion of the camp.

The Details

Tkachev will receive $550k in year 1, $575k in year 2, and $600k in year 3 along with a $55k signing bonus each season.

This is a great day for the Oilers and a great day for Vladdy Hockey!

Should He Stay or Should He Go?

The Oilers have a huge whole in their center depth and Leon Draisaitl has a real shot at making the team this upcoming season. Before the draft I posted the last 20 3rd overall picks in the draft to get an idea of what we could expect of the Oilers pick this year and I thought it would be interesting to see how long it took those players to be NHL’rs.

The table below shows the number of games played by the past 20 3rd overall picks in the first 3 years after they are drafted.

Player Drafted Year 1 Year 2 Year 3
Radek Bonk 1994 42 76 53
Aki Berg 1995 51 41 72
JP Dumont 1996 0 0 25
Oli Jokinen 1997 8 66 82
Brad Stuart 1998 0 82 77
Henrick Sedin 1999 0 82 82
Marian Gaborik 2000 71 78 81
Alexander Svitov 2001 0 63 40
Jay Bouwmeester 2002 82 61 NA
Nathan Horton 2003 55 NA 71
Cam Barker 2004 NA 1 35
Jack Johnson 2005 0 5 74
Jonathan Toews 2006 0 64 82
Kyle Turris 2007 3 63 0
Zach Bogosian 2008 47 81 71
Matt Duchene 2009 81 80 58
Erik Gudbranson 2010 0 72 32
Jonathan Huberdeau 2011 0 0 48
Alex Galchenyuk 2012 48 65 NA
Jonathan Drouin 2013 0 NA NA

In 20 years only 3 players have played a full season in the year they were picked 3rd overall, and 5 played half a season. The other 12 either didn’t play at all or had a real small sip. Based on history I think we can expect Draisaitl to return to Jr this season but should be worried if he doesn’t make the team in the 2015/16 season.