Category Archives: Edmonton Oilers Gear

James Neal Jersey

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When you look at the numbers over the last ten games, it’s not fair, by any means, to suggest the Edmonton Oilers struggles can be blamed on any one person. At the same time, it’s hard not to look at the recent stretch of games and wonder where the offense has gone from a player like James Neal?

Neal started the 2019-20 season like a house-on-fire and skyrocketed up the NHL standings, leading the league in goals. He’s still second in the league with 10 power play markers but if you look at his recent production, it’s worrying.

Neal’s got three points in the month of December. Worse yet, this comes on the heels of a month of November where he scored four points in 14 games. Have fans been watching two different players?

What’s Happened to Neal?
There are a few explanations as to what might be going on here. First, what’s happening to Neal is happening, in a manner of speaking, to almost every Oilers forward.

James Neal Edmonton Oilers
James Neal, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)
A poor goals-for versus goals-against ratio has hit the team and Neal has been arguably hit the hardest by a drop in scoring. Some of that comes with a lack of Edmonton’s top-six to shoot the puck, some of it comes with more time spent in the defensive zone and some of it comes with teams prepping for an Oilers roster that wasn’t supposed to be as good as they realized it might be after the season began.

The Oilers put some early points in the bank to start the season. They’ve settled in to what they might actually be as an organization since.

Second, Neal himself has come back down to Earth in terms of certain statistics like shooting percentage. In November, he posted a monstrous 26.2% shooting percentage but that number was cut by more than half to only 11.5% in November. So far, in December, his numbers have jumped back up a bit to 18% but he’s probably somewhere closer to the 11 than he is to the 26.

Finally, the Oilers have also used him less.

Going from over 243 minutes in October to a month of November where the Oilers dropped him to 216 minutes in the same number of games, Edmonton chose to use others where he might have been a shoe-in before. Call it the Oilers trying to balance out the lines or trying to boost certain players like Alex Chiasson, Neal has seen the consequences of those decisions.

Related: Line of the Times: The Legion of Doom

Should the Oilers Be Worried?
When you look down Highway 2 towards the Calgary area, fans are starting to see a player in Milan Lucic go on a hot streak. Lucic was the piece Edmonton moved to acquire Neal and while Lucic spent the first 20 games of this NHL season doing not much more than getting himself in trouble, the Flames and Lucic have turned things around. The natural tendency of fans might be to panic a little.

James Neal Edmonton Oilers Jonathan Quick Los Angeles Kings
James Neal of the Edmonton Oilers screens goaltender Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
Alas, this is not to suggest the Oilers made a poor decision. No one should be second-guessing this trade. Neal is the more prolific of the two scorers, he’s already seeing a slight rebound in December and the Oilers will start to go to the well more often, deploying what they know in terms of line combinations. Coach Dave Tippett needs to rely on his trusted players to try and improve on-ice results. Neal will see more ice time as a result.

Related: Oilers History: The Importance of Jimmy Carson

He’s Still the Real Deal
Neal has already destroyed the abysmal season he had last year in Calgary. He’s on his way to his regular Neal-like numbers with plenty of season left to go.

He may not be the player that lit up the NHL in October, but he’s certainly a 20-goal man on a team that could really use a 20-goal top-six forward right about now. He’s the real deal, even if his last few games haven’t suggested as much.

Adam Larsson Jersey

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The trade was one for one. On June 29th, the New Jersey Devils seemed to commit highway robbery of the Edmonton Oilers when they traded Adam Larsson for Taylor Hall. On paper, it was a fourth-overall pick bust for a number-one pick that was under appreciated and unfairly criticized in the Canadian market. The Devils needed more scoring and they got a player that could post up over 65 points on a consistent basis. The Oilers needed a defenseman that can shut down the opposing opposition and could help them from giving up goals. Larsson wasn’t the Nick Lidstrom that some pundits projected him to be, but he was serviceable.

Hall was on a very team-friendly contract that had four years left on it. While Larsson had five years left on his deal. Well it is four years later and Hall’s contact is up after this season. The story surrounding the Devils is what they are going to do with Hall. Could they re-sign him and make him the next captain and cement him in Devils lore? Or would they come out of the gate slow and be forced to move him?

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We all know the situation the Devils are in. It is the latter and it is worse than we thought. The Devils came down to Earth harder than thought possible. Now the writing is on the wall and Hall will most certainly be moved. The rumblings being it will be sooner rather than later.

At the end of Hall’s tenure with the Devils, the question of who actually won the trade needs to be asked. Yes, Hall did have a career year by winning the Hart Trophy in his second year with the Devils, but one good year of Taylor Hall and one playoff win was not what Ray Shero had planned. So the deal has to be looked at with what the Devils may get for Hall. As it stands, Hall has 208 points in 210 games played with the Devils. He will seem to finish his black and red career as a point per game player while being a talent the Devils could do nothing with.

People can blame Shero for holding on to John Hynes for too long, but Hall has admitted before, without Hynes, Hall would not have had his record year. Hall did miss a good chunk of time with an injury in 2018-19, but without a solid goaltender that team was not going anywhere even with a healthy Hall.

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Speaking of an injury prone tenure, Larsson still has one more year left on his contract with the Oilers. He missed a good portion to the start of this season due to a broken ankle suffered while blocking a shot. In 2017-18 he also missed nearly 20 games due to an injury. While Larsson has never scored more than twenty points in a season with the Oilers, he has been dependable on the defensive side of the puck. Currently wearing an ‘A’, he seems to be in the future plans of the Oilers with Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom, and Ethan Bear. That is a formidable top four to have if Bear can keep up his play and even take another step. With Philip Broberg and Evan Bouchard in the pipeline, the Oilers blueline is set for a few years to come. With the team currently in first place in the Pacific Division, Larsson won’t be going anywhere.

With the Oilers only making the playoffs once in Larsson’s tenure, this year could decide who won the trade. With Conor McDavid and Leon Draisatl, the Oilers should be taken as Stanley Cup contenders, IF and only if they can keep the pace of play up and not collapse. They could even possibly trade for Hall, but it is not likely due to the price Shero has set for his former MVP. All signs point to the Colorado Avalanche. To decide who won the original Taylor Hall trade, you have to take into consideration what the second Hall trade will bring in. If the Oilers make the playoffs this season or next with Larsson and get out of the first round while the Devils get an underwhelming return and won’t compete for a few more years, the Oilers would have actually won the original deal.

The Devils do not seem like they are in the mood to compete this season and ironically without a better defense and goaltending, they won’t for a while. The Oilers have Larsson and a core already there. There may be one or two players currently on the team for the Devils that can be considered in their future plans. It is sad that this is the way that Hall’s tenure is ending in New Jersey. It should not have gone like this, but it is the case. However if Hall can be dealt for a bonafide prospect like Bowen Byram, then it can be considered a push deal.

NEXT: 5 Possible Replacements For John Hynes
So in the end there are three ways that the one for one trade can be judged. Player success, team success and team future. For the player success it is an absolute no brainer. Hall won the MVP and was a point per game player. Larsson while being serviceable did not have near an impact as Hall. Team success wise, it was a push until this season. Edmonton seems to be on pace to make the playoffs this year while the Devils look for the number one overall pick, again. Much like the Oilers were in the early 2010s. Both teams made the playoffs once with both players so far, but if the Oilers can do damage this season, that edge goes to them.

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So the tie breaker is what the future holds for both teams. It depends on what the Devils get for Hall in the upcoming trade and what happens with their potential lottery pick. Dealing Hall will make the team worse and #TankForLaff will be on. But even with a Cole Perfetti the Devils will be better off. If the Devils lose the lottery and get an underwhelming return, the Oilers get the edge. They have McDavid and Draisatl. The Devils have Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier. Neither have the potential of those two, but are solid building blocks. It all comes down to Ray Shero and what he can get for Hall. But right now, as it stands, the Oilers should get a little more love for this deal. Because, they as it seems, have won the original Hall trade.

Mikko Koskinen Jersey

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Mikko Koskinen made 35 saves as the Edmonton Oilers held on for a 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings Friday night at Rogers Place.

Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl scored on the power play when his cross-ice pass deflected in off Kings defenceman Drew Doughty’s skate.

“It wasn’t pretty, but at the end of the day, nobody is going to ask if it’s pretty or not,” Draisaitl said after the game.

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“It’s two points for us and that’s really all that matters.”

LISTEN BELOW: Oilers coach Dave Tippett speaks after Edmonton’s 2-1 win over Los Angeles

The Kings celebrated a rebound goal by Blake Lizotte a few minutes later, but the Oilers successfully challenged the play for offside and kept their lead.

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“I watched it on the bench. It was close, but we felt confident about it,” Oilers head coach Dave Tippett said of the decision to challenge the play.

“[Assistant coach Glen Gulutzan] says to me he thinks we should challenge it. I have a look at it and I’ll take his recommendation,” Tippett said, adding the initial suggestion came from Oilers video coach Jeremy Coupal.
“I knew it was close,” Lizotte said. “When you drag your foot, you’re not sure where the line is exactly.

“I knew it was going to be close. Even when I scored, I thought, ‘OK, they’re going to review it.’ Sure enough, it was a centimetre or two. It was real close.”

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The Oilers had another power play later in the first period. Edmonton captain Connor McDavid set up Alex Chiasson for a tap-in to make it 2-0.

“That’s been the story lately, so we’ve got to figure it out how not to fall behind,” Kings captain Anze Kopitar said. “Essentially, you get the first goal and play with the lead (and) it’s a lot more fun.

“It’s way better. And we’re going to have to figure it out.”

READ MORE: Senators win over Oilers again in Edmonton

The Kings’ Austin Wagner had two point-blank chances in the final six minutes of the second period, but both times he was turned away by Koskinen.

READ MORE: Edmonton Oilers Patrick Russell still searching for first NHL goal

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Los Angeles netminder Jonathan Quick kept the Kings within two with big saves on Draisaitl and James Neal in the third.

“If you look at our five-on-five game tonight, we were probably the better team — creating more chances — but the game consists of the special teams, and special teams nowadays are a huge part of the games, and we lost it tonight,” Kopitar said of the Kings.

The Kings’ Michael Amadio finally solved Koskinen with 6:28 to go, sliding the puck in after a scramble in front.

The Kings pulled Quick with 1:45 to go. Koskinen made a final glove save on a goal-mouth deflection by Los Angeles forward Jeff Carter with five seconds left.

LISTEN BELOW: Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen speaks after backstopping Edmonton to a 2-1 over the Kings

“Usually that happens when they pull the goalie,” Koskinen said. “They get a little more pressure and shots to the net, but they didn’t get anything too dangerous, so I’m happy for the win.”

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“We just said, ‘Let’s give Kosk a chance to redeem himself,’ because we’ve done the same for [Mike Smith] a couple times and actually got really good games out of him, so that’s what we were looking for tonight and Kosk came in and played a heck of a game for us,” Tippett said.
LISTEN BELOW: Oilers forward Alex Chiasson speaks after Edmonton’s Friday night win over the Kings

The Oilers (18-10-3) will host Buffalo Sunday night.

–With files from 630 CHED’s Brenden Escott and Scott Johnston

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Oscar Klefbom Jersey

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Expect Oscar Klefbom to be a reliable fantasy starter the rest of the season. His 57 projected fantasy points puts him at #57 behind Ryan McDonagh and ahead of Shea Theodore. He has averaged 1.39 fantasy points in his past 93 games, which is more than our projected per game average. He is projected to average 1.21 fantasy points. His rank based on avg proj (#55) is better than his rank based on total fantasy points. He is overrated if you compare his ownership based rank with his projection rank. At 87%, he is the #34 most highly owned defenseman. Oscar Klefbom is expected to improve on this season-to-date’s #72 fantasy position rank.

REST OF SEASON RANK (D) PROJECTION FANTASY STATS SINCE 2019
#55 Brady Skjei (18% OWN) 59 FP, 1.18 per game 98 FP, 78 gp, 1.26 per game (#96)
#56 Ryan McDonagh (47% OWN) 57 FP, 1.12 per game 200 FP, 82 gp, 2.45 per game (#19)
#57 Oscar Klefbom (87% OWN) 57 FP, 1.21 per game 88 FP, 61 gp, 1.44 per game (#76)
#58 Shea Theodore (81% OWN) 57 FP, 1.21 per game 137 FP, 79 gp, 1.73 per game (#53)
#59 Oliver Ekman-Larsson (89% OWN) 57 FP, 1.21 per game 163 FP, 81 gp, 2.01 per game (#34)
These projections power SportsLine’s Computer Picks and Fantasy Data. But for contest winning DFS optimal lineups by top experts like Mike McClure visit SportsLine’s new Daily Fantasy Hub.

OSCAR KLEFBOM WEEK 11 AND 12 FANTASY OUTLOOK
Oscar Klefbom is projected for 2.43 fantasy points in 2 games the rest of the week in week 11 which ranks him as the #54 projected defenseman for the week and a starter for most fantasy teams. This is projected to be a better than average week with more fantasy points per game than he is projected to average per game the rest of the season. He is ranked above Rasmus Ristolainen but behind Philippe Myers the rest of the week. Week 12 will be better based on projected rank (#36). He is projected for 4.46 fantasy points.

12/12 TO 12/15 RANK (D) PROJECTION ROS FP PROJ AVG
#52 Miro Heiskanen (97% OWN) 2.48 FP, 2 GP 1.32 FP
#53 Philippe Myers (22% OWN) 2.45 FP, 2 GP 1.28 FP
#54 Oscar Klefbom (87% OWN) 2.43 FP, 2 GP 1.21 FP
#55 Rasmus Ristolainen (78% OWN) 2.4 FP, 2 GP 1.31 FP
#56 Brent Seabrook (14% OWN) 2.4 FP, 3 GP 0.84 FP
12/16 TO 12/22 RANK (D) PROJECTION ROS FP PROJ AVG
#34 Drew Doughty (97% OWN) 4.53 FP, 3 GP 1.74 FP
#35 Erik Gustafsson (82% OWN) 4.52 FP, 3 GP 1.59 FP
#36 Oscar Klefbom (87% OWN) 4.46 FP, 4 GP 1.21 FP
#37 Ryan Murray (11% OWN) 4.4 FP, 4 GP 0.94 FP
#38 Adam Fox (75% OWN) 4.34 FP, 3 GP 1.46 FP
Oscar Klefbom Is a Better Value on DraftKings at $6K Than on FanDuel at $5.5 on 12/12
For each platform we calculate a position specific points per dollar and our projection says he is a better value on DraftKings than on FanDuel. He is projected for 12.7 FD points and is worth -$168 less than $5.5K on FD. On DK he is projected for 15.2 points and is worth +$100 more than $6K. Below are how he ranks based on projected fantasy points on both DFS platforms. Look for players with more FPs at lower salaries.

FANDUEL (D) 12/12 RANK PROJECTION SALARY
#12 Keith Yandle 12.9 FD Points $5600
#13 Ryan Ellis 12.8 FD Points $4700
#14 Oscar Klefbom 12.7 FD Points $5500
#15 Drew Doughty 12.2 FD Points $5700
#16 Kevin Shattenkirk 12 FD Points $5100
DRAFTKINGS (D) 12/12 RANK PROJECTION SALARY
#7 Seth Jones 15.4 DK Points $5400
#8 Victor Hedman 15.4 DK Points $6100
#9 Oscar Klefbom 15.2 DK Points $6000
#10 Ryan Ellis 14.3 DK Points $5700
#11 Erik Karlsson 13.8 DK Points $5800
FANTASY PROJECTIONS AND ACTUAL STATS
The tables below show projected stats (totals and averages) for the rest of the season and upcoming weeks. Also included are actual stats from the current and last season.

OSCAR KLEFBOM FP PTS G A SOG BLK
Rest of ’19-20 57 24.8 3.5 21.3 113 153
– Per Game (47 Proj) 1.21 0.53 0.07 0.45 2.40 3.23
12/9 to 12/15 (2 Games) 2.43 1.03 0.15 0.89 4.6 6.2
12/16 to 12/22 (3.9 Games) 4.5 1.98 0.28 1.70 9.2 12.9
’19-20 Season 41.5 18 2 16 78 101
– Per Game (32 GP) 1.30 0.56 0.06 0.50 2.44 3.16
’18-20 Seasons 130 46 7 39 245 203
– Per Game (93 GP) 1.39 0.49 0.08 0.42 2.63 2.18

Jujhar Khaira Jersey

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This in from Bob Stauffer of the Oilers, the team’s line-up against the Minnesota Wild:

Nygard-McDavid-Kassian

Draisaitl-RNH-Chiasson

Neal-Haas-Gagner

Khaira -Sheahan-Archibald

Nurse-Bear

Klefbom-Larsson

Russell-Jones

Smith

My take
There’s no shortage of Edmonton Oilers players right now with plenty to prove right now.

Mike Smith. Since his huge game against Pittsburgh in early November, Smith has started seven games and won just two of them. His save percentage is .865. That’s not a save percentage that will keep you in the NHL for long.
James Neal. In his first 16 games of the year, Neal pounded 25 Grade A scoring chance shots on net and pumped in 11 goals. In his last 17 games, Neal has just 13 Grade A shots on net and just three goals. The Oilers power play is best when he’s out there so perhaps he can get back his touch on that unit. He’s got the hands and hockey IQ to do it, that’s for sure.
Oscar Klefbom. Klefbom has been riding a rollercoaster in terms of his defensive play this year. He tends to go through stretches where he gets beat on-on-one, and he’s in that phase right now. To start the year, Klefbom was leaking Grade A chances against at even strength, with 24 major mistakes on Grade chances in 11 games. He cut that to just 19 major mistakes in his next 11 games, a more acceptable rate against tough competition. But in his last 12 games, Klefbom has utterly crashed, making 32 such major mistakes at even strength. Not good. Not even close to good. Of course, all players will go into defensive slumps but it’s a killer with Klef simply because he’s so important to the Oilers. When he pulls out of this defensive slump — and he will pull out of it — expect the entire team to step up. One issue for him has been his revolving door of defensive partners, but he should have some comfort playing again with his old partner Adam Larsson, who has stepped up his own play in recent games.
The penalty kill gang of Riley Sheahan, Josh Archibald, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jujhar Khaira and Leon Draisaitl had an off game against Carolina, but has been solid all year. The players need to be solid in this crucial next run of games. Edmonton also had 18 wins after 33 games last year, but fell off a cliff from mid-December to early January, essentially wiping out all the good they had done up until that point. If Edmonton’s PK gang is strong in the next month that is unlikely to happen again, at least if the team gets OK goaltending.
Joakim Nygard gets another chance with Connor McDavid and Zack Kassian, who are flying high right now. Nygard has the speed and skill to keep up, but does he have the confidence and the hockey IQ? I think this line has a chance for some real success, which would allow the Oilers to keep a second line with Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Leon Draisaitl’s attacking, scoring and defensive play have fallen off. He’s staying out too long on shifts, desperate to make something happen. I’d like to see him simplify his game, play the centre spot on the second line and focus only on his own play in the defensive zone. If he gets the job done there and keeps his shifts to 50 seconds — two things he’s capable of doing — the offence will come. Does that make sense to you as well?
Caleb Jones is getting yet another cup of coffee in the NHL. He’s got everything he needs to make it as an NHLer, decent size, strong skils with the puck, and NHL-plus skating ability. Now he just needs to have the confidence, smarts and drive to actually play his “A” game at this level. It’s never an easy thing for a player to figure out his role in the NHL — just how much he should do and when he should back off and play it safe — but Jones got this equation right in his last game, and did so in many games last year. Can he put together a run of games where it all adds up? My bet is he can. But he, too, has something big to prove right now.
At the Cult
STAPLES: Franchise value of Oilers has gone up by $405 million since Katz took over team, Forbes reports

McCURDY: Player grades as Oilers lose to Hurricanes

McCURDY: Tippett scrambing for answers during rough patch

STAPLES: Caleb Jones up, Joel Persson down

STAPLES: Can these Oilers avoid the ugly collapse of 2018-19?

Kyle Brodziak Jersey

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In the tight Western Conference games against most west opponents seems more important than ever. The Oilers sit in first place in the Pacific Division, but they are only six points ahead of ninth place Vancouver, who have two games in hand. Minnesota is seven points back, also with two games in hand, and with the cross over potential for the wildcard spot available games against Central Division teams pushing for a playoff spot are equally important.

Edmonton is 2-4-1 in their last seven games, and tonight they will once again look to avoid a three-game winless streak for the first time this season. They’ve been on the ropes a few times this season, but have always found a way to punch their way back into the fight and avoid taking on more punishment. Can they do it again tonight?

1. The Wild had points in 11 consecutive games (8-0-3) from November 14th to December 5th, before losing to the Carolina Hurricanes on December 7th. Starting goalie Devan Dubnyk was in net for the games on November 14th and 16th, but he hasn’t played since. He went home after their game on the 16th and found his wife, Jennifer, ill. He rushed her to the hospital and has been focused on her health ever since.

2. He returned to practice on November 28th and shared a bit of what happened to Jennifer. “I don’t know how much I want to say, details-wise,” he said. “It’s just something that I need to be here for, and I need to be with her and the kids. There were some days in the hospital over the last week that were tough. It’s still pretty foggy as far as what’s going to happen going forward.” Dubnyk joined the Wild late in the morning skate today, but he won’t dress tonight.

3. I applaud the Wild’s handling of this situation. They put family first, as they should, over hockey. Dubnyk is very popular among his teammates, and with the Wild being the oldest team in the NHL, many of their players are married with kids. This situation hits home for many of them, and I’m not surprised the Wild went on a winning streak afterwards. You realize pretty quickly that hockey is just a game. Of course they want to win, but the angst and frustration they get from losing pales in comparison to how you feel when a loved one becomes sick. It puts things in perspective.

4. Minnesota is 7-1-3 without their starting goalie. Alex Stalock is 5-1-2 with a .909sv% and 3.00 GAA in Dubnyk’s absence, while rookie Kaapo Kahkonen is 2-0-1 with a .946sv% and 2.00 GAA. The WIld have allowed 34.2 shots/game over the past eleven. They haven’t played stellar defensively, but their offence has picked up, scoring 3.36 goals/game. They averaged 2.65 in 20 games prior to Jennifer being rushed to the hospital.

5. The Oilers need to create some powerplays tonight. The Wild have allowed a powerplay goal in five consecutive games, and in nine of their previous 10. Their PK is an ugly 64.3% in that 10-game span. The Oilers’ PP success rate is virtually identical at home or on the road. They are 31.5% at home (17 of 54) and 31.8% on the road (14 goals on 44 chances). The major difference is they’re only averaging 2.58 PP/game on the road compared to 3.38/game at home.

6. Their PK is a league-best 90.8% on the road killing off 49 of 54 penalties. The Wild home PP is 27.8% (sixth best), so special teams could be a major factor like they were Tuesday against the Hurricanes. The Oilers PK has been great all season, but after allowing three goals to the Hurricanes, and allowing too many seam passes, Dave Tippett will want them to fix that right away.

7. Mikko Koivu played his 1,000th on December 1st, all as a member of the Wild, but then he got injured two nights later against the Florida Panthers. The Wild had a pre-game ceremony recognizing his great accomplishment Tuesday against the Ducks. Koivu didn’t play, but he did get dressed in his hockey gear for the ceremony. The Wild surprised him by bringing in many of his former teammates, including injured Oilers forward Kyle Brodziak. Mike Russo had a great story on what the Wild planned for Koivu.

8. The Oilers have sprung a leak defensively allowing 26 goals during their 2-4-1 slide. They need to tighten up defensively, and their top gunners need to produce a bit more at 5-on-5. The Oilers have scored 15 goals in the past seven games, but only eight at 5×5. Zack Kassian has three goals, in only four games, while Jujhar Khaira has two, and Riley Sheahan, Josh Archibald and Connor McDavid have one.

9. Leon Draisaitl, James Neal, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins need to finish more. Draisaitl still leads the NHL in 5×5 points with 30, but he only has one point at 5×5 in his last seven games, and he’s been getting scored on too much. He can play better, and I fully expect he will soon. RNH and Neal haven’t done nearly enough at 5×5 all season, and if the new Draisaitl-RNH combination can produce some points the Oilers’ skid will likely stop.

10. The San Jose Sharks fired head coach Pete Deboer last night. They are the fifth team to change coaches in the past 21 days, and second in the Pacific Division. The Leafs are 6-3 under Sheldon Keefe, the Calgary Flames are 6-0 with Geoff Ward, the New Jersey Devils are 0-3-1 and the Dallas Stars are 1-0 under Rick Bowness. The Sharks sit sixth in the Pacific with 32 points and are looking for a spark. If it works then the Pacific will only become more competitive and the need for the Oilers to stop their skid becomes even more important.

11. The response to my article yesterday was outstanding. I couldn’t reply to all of your comments, but many of you made great points. A member of the Oilers business team reached out to me and said the comments were read and noted. We’ll see what comes of it, but good on your for replying with well thought out and honest comments.

Matt Benning Jersey

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Edmonton Oilers defenceman left Sunday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks after being hit in the head with a puck.

Edmonton Oilers

@EdmontonOilers
#Oilers d-man Matt Benning will not return to tonight’s game.

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The play happened in the first period when Josh Levio took a shot that hit Benning in the back of the helmet.

He was slow to get up and was taken to the locker room.

Benning will be reassessed on Monday.

The 25-year-old was playing in his first game after missing five with a concussion.

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Le défenseur des Oilers Ethan Bear (74) et Kyle Okposo (21) des Sabres de Buffalo, pendant le match du 8 décembre 2019.

PHOTO : THE CANADIAN PRESS / JASON FRANSON

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Radio-Canada
Publié le 11 décembre 2019
Enfant, alors qu’il grandissait dans la nation Ochapowace, dans le sud de la Saskatchewan, Ethan Bear, défenseur des Oilers de la LNH, idolâtrait Carey Price, Jonathan Cheechoo et Jordin Tootoo.

Aujourd’hui, après seulement quelques mois de carrière dans la Ligue nationale de hockey (LNH), la recrue de 22 ans jouit d’une reconnaissance semblable. Son chandail se taille une place dans les gradins parmi les supporteurs des Oilers lors des matchs à domicile.

C’est cool, reconnaît Bear. On en rêve quand on est jeune, et maintenant que je suis là, je vais rester concentré et m’assurer que je suis toujours prêt pour les gars.

Outre le succès de son équipe en début de saison – l’équipe est en tête de la division Pacifique – le jeu régulier de Bear sur la ligne bleue fait plaisir chez les Oilers et lui a valu l’éloge de l’entraîneur-chef Dave Tippett.

Ethan Bear a été repêché au cinquième tour, 124e au total en 2015, la même année que Connor McDavid.

Lors de la saison 2017-18, il a été rappelé par les Oilers pour 18 matchs, mais l’an dernier, il a passé toute la saison avec les Condors de Bakersfield de l’American Hockey League (AHL).

Son ascension fulgurante ne surprend pas son partenaire défensif Darnell Nurse.

Il a très bien compris la situation, soutient-il, impressionné par le sang-froid de Bear dans les situations sous pression.

Des chandails de Bear et McDavid dans un magasin d’articles de sport.
Les chandails d’Ethan Bear sont très populaires, selon le gérant du magasin United Sport & Cycle à Edmonton.

PHOTO : RADIO-CANADA / MIN DHARIWAL

Tous les soirs, il vient et il est à l’aise. Il ne fait que jouer. Il ne pense pas, il joue et c’est amusant de jouer avec lui, confie Darnell Nurse.

Très inspirant
Le jeu de Bear est un sujet de conversation constant chez les joueurs des Tomahawks du nord de l’Alberta à la fin de leur entraînement à l’Enoch Recreation Centre, juste à l’ouest d’Edmonton.

L’équipe de hockey Junior A du Grand Métro est composée de joueurs de moins de 20 ans majoritairement autochtones.

Je pense que c’est très inspirant, a déclaré Quinton Courteoreille, un attaquant qui a grandi à Fort McMurray. Ethan Bear a eu un impact énorme sur la collectivité, souligne-t-il.

Je vis avec mes cousins et chacun d’entre eux a un chandail de Bear. Ils se sont entraînés avec lui l’été dernier à Kelowna. Ils ont eu la chance de le rencontrer. Ils ont dit que c’était une expérience géniale et que c’était un type bien.

Un chandail à la mode
Chez United Sport & Cycle dans le sud d’Edmonton, le magasinage de Noël bat son plein.

À l’étage, une machine à coudre tourne à plein régime pour produire trois nouveaux chandails des Oilers portant le nom et le numéro 74 de Bear. Ils seront ensuite amenés à l’étage des ventes où ils seront accrochés à côté de ceux de Connor McDavid et Leon Draisaitl.

Nous avons du mal à garder le chandail de Bear en stock. On a accru la production pour essayer de le garder sur l’étagère, le gérant Kelly Hodgson, qui a ajouté que la vente de chandails peut parfois être difficile.

Une couturière coud un chandail de Bear.
Une couturière travaille d’arrache-pied pour fournir assez de chandails d’Ethan Bear.

PHOTO : RADIO-CANADA / MIN DHARIWAL

Restez loin des drogues et de l’alcool
Bear se dit flatté par le soutien.

Malgré tout le battage médiatique et ses succès en début de saison, le défenseur affirme qu’il vient à la patinoire chaque jour pour faire son travail, sur la glace et à l’extérieur.

Si je peux être un modèle et quelqu’un qui peut simplement donner l’exemple et qu’ils peuvent m’admirer, je prends cela au sérieux, souligne Bear.

J’espère qu’ils verront ce que j’ai fait et qu’ils comprendront qu’il faut travailler dur et rester concentré et, en tant qu’athlète, [il faut] manger sainement et éviter les drogues et l’alcool.

Avec les informations de Min Dhariwal de CBC

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We’re now in the Tyler Wright Era of Edmonton Oilers amateur scouting. It’s no exaggeration to suggest that the fate of the team is in large part in his hands. If Wright can consistently identify future Big 12 NHLers, the Oilers will have a huge leg up on their NHL competitors.

What is a Big 12 NHLer? The spine of the team, the critical players essential to any squad’s success, the No. 1 goalie, Top 4 d-men and Top 7 forwards, all the top two line forwards and one excellent checker/two-way player leading the third line.

NHL head scouts who succeed will identify at least one Big 12 player every draft year on average, they will make the most of their Top 10 overall picks, they’ll find at least one Big 12 players outside the first round every second year, and they’ll identify at least one Team Canada-quality player every four drafts.

Wright is replacing a head scout Bob Green, who did some good work in the draft. It’s not like Wright is coming in and restoring order and competence to a part of the team that had none. In fact, if there’s one area of the Edmonton Oilers operation that appears to have been functioning well in the past five years, it’s the amateur scouting department.

As new Oilers pro scout Archie Henderson told Bob Stauffer of Oilers Now: “There has been over the course of the years a real lack of legitimate NHL prospects in the organization. But in the last couple of years that has been changed. There are some young players that we do believe have good futures ahead of them, especially on the back end. I mean, you’ve got Caleb Jones, Ethan Bear, (William) Lagesson, (Evan) Bouchard, (Dmitri) Samorukov. I would say that in the American League level as far as prospects go, those five may be as good as any other NHL team has playing in their system to develop into the NHL defenceman.”

Henderson’s positive take on Edmonton’s prospects isn’t rose-coloured optimism. It aligns with improved performances each year of numerous prospects, from Samorukov and Jones on defence to Tyler Benson and Cooper Marody at forward.

All this raises the question of whether Oilers GM Ken Holland made the right choice in moving out Green in favour of Wright. I’m digging into this question in a few posts, the first of which established some back-of-the-envelope criteria to judge scouts and looked at Green’s record running the amateur scouting department.

In this second post today, we’ll look at how past Oilers head scouts have done, which will give us one more point when we rate Wright’s work in Columbus and Detroit in the final post in this series.

Strong: The Barry Fraser Era, 1979-2000
Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson
Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson

Outside of Wayne Gretzky, Glen Sather and Peter Pocklington, Barry Fraser is as much as anyone responsible for Edmonton’s five Stanley Cups from 1984 to 1990.

Fraser was the chief scout who drafted all-time NHL greats like Kevin Lowe, Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson, Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri and Grant Fuhr, often with lower round picks.

But there’s a rub — all those players were taken in Fraser’s first three drafts. After that, he had marginal success. In eight draft years — 1982, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1995 — he and his scouts failed to draft even one Big 12 player.

When we look at Fraser’s entire 22 year run, how did he do?

Here’s the list of Big 12 players he drafted in that time.

Did the scouts make best use of all their Top 10 overall picks? In his 22 years, Fraser had seven picks in the Top Ten of a draft. In 1980, he took Paul Coffey 6th overall, with Grant Fuhr 8th overall in 1981, Jason Arnott 7th in 1993, Jason Bonsignore 4th in 1994, Ryan Smyth 6th in 1994, Steve Kelly 6th in 1995 and Boyd Devereaux 6th in 1996. So he got two Hall-of-Fame players in Coffey and Fuhr, two other Team Canada-quality players in Arnott and Smyth, and had three duds-to-mediocre NHLers. Even a great team of scouts is going to have the odd dud with a Top 10 pick (the success rate of picks five-to-ten is pretty much a coin flip on average for NHL teams, with half being good-to-great players and half being mediocre-to-duds), but this is one dud too many to give Fraser top marks in this category. At the same time, with picks like Coffey, Fuhr, Smyth and Arnott, it’s tough to fail Fraser. Given that most of Fraser’s Top 10 picks were not at the very top end of the draft and he found two Hall-of-Fame players in the five-to-ten overall range, I’m inclined to say he passed this test. It’s not like he had endless first overall picks thrown his way.

Edmonton Oilers defenceman Randy Gregg, a brilliant amateur free agent signing along with d-man Charlie Huddy STAFF FILE / EDMONTON JOURNAL

Did the scouts find at least one Big 12 player on average each year of the draft? In his 22 drafts, Fraser grabbed twenty-three Big 12 players. He also signed amateur free agents Charlie Huddy and Randy Gregg, bumping up his number to twenty-five Big 12 players in 22 draft years. He passes this test as well. The only proviso here is that Fraser found eight Big 12 players in his first three years, then just seventeen in his final 19 drafts. He had a complete and ugly dry spell for five years from 1986 to 1990. That crippled the Oilers in the mid-1990s, especially when Pocklington sold off Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier for money and far lesser players.
Did the scouts identify at least one Team Canada-quality player every four years in the draft? By my assessment, Fraser drafted ten Team Canada-quality players, and he signed two others, Huddy and Gregg, as amateur free agents. Huddy and Gregg both made the 1984 Canada Cup team. By this measure, Fraser scores exceedingly well in this category. In fact, he killed here. By comparison, when the Detroit Red Wings were at the very height of their drafting acumen from 1983 to 2004, they drafted only eight Team Canada-quality players in those 22 years. Fraser outpaced that stellar performance.
Legendary Oilers scout Barry Fraser

Did the scouts draft a Big 12 player outside of the first round every second year? Sharp-eyed Fraser also rocks this category, having found sixteen Big 12 players outside the first round (the 32nd pick in the draft and later). Again, we add in Gregg and Huddy here and it’s clear Fraser and his team had success by this measure. Indeed, his eighteen Big 12 later round gems in 22 drafts is just one less than the Detroit record of nineteen uncut gems during its excellent 1983-to-2004 run.
Overall, Fraser passes every category, some with the flying-est of colours. If he had not had that terrible run of drafting from 1986 to 1990, and if had not blown three Top Ten picks in the 1990s, we might be calling Fraser the greatest scout in NHL history. He’s most certainly in the Top Five.

His reputation has been tarnished because of his work after 1983, but his final drafts through the 1990s weren’t disasters and brought the Oilers many of the key players (Shawn Horcoff, Jarret Stoll, Ryan Smyth and Fernando Pisani) who would help the team come within one game of winning the 2006 Stanley Cup.

All hail Barry the Far-sighted!

Edmonton Oilers winger Jarret Stoll (right) celebrates LARRY WONG / EDMONTON JOURNAL

Weak: The Kevin Prendergast Era, 2001 to 2007 drafts
Prendergast took over from Fraser in the 2001 draft, and the story goes that his best pick was the first one he ever made, Ales Hemsky.

But how did Prendergast do overall?

Did the scouts make best use of all their Top 10 overall picks? Prendergast had just one such pick in his seven years, Sam Gagner taken 6th overall in 2007. It’s up for debate but I don’t think Gagner has been a successful Big 12 player. He’s not been a dud but I can’t give Prendergast a pass in this category. Gagner might well be a useful Oilers winger this year, but he has too many defensive holes in his game and not quite enough offence, which is why he’s bounced around so much.
Did the scouts find at least one Big 12 player on average each year of the draft? With just five Big 12 players in seven drafts, Prendergast failed to meet this test as well.
Did the scouts identify at least one Team Canada-quality player every four years in the draft? Prendergast would have to have found two such players to pass this test. Hemsky arguably had that kind of quality and Devan Dubnyk had a strong five year run with the Wild, so I’ll give this one to Prendergast, though just barely.
Did the scouts draft a Big 12 player outside of the first round every second year? In seven years Prendergast found Stoll at 36th overall and Petry at 45th overall, both solid Big 12 players, but that was it for late round gems. Prendergast failed here.
Prendergast didn’t have a great record. There are way too many misses with first and second round players like Doug Lynch, Ed Caron, Jesse Niinimaki, Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Colin McDonald, Jean-Francois Jacques, Rob Schremp, Roman Tesliuk, Geoff Paukovich, Taylor Chorney and Alex Plante. Prendergast needed two or three of these players to turn into Big 12ers, along with one or two more late round gems. But not to be, and this failure is a big reason why the Oilers collapsed into the Decade of Darkness, which started in 2006-07, the last of Prendergast’s years in charge of the draft.

WEAKEST: The Stu MacGregor Era, 2008-2014
If Kevin Prendergast dug the pit of the Decade of Darkness, Stu MacGregor and his scouts built the unsound foundation.

Did the scouts make best use of all their Top 10 overall picks? In six of his seven years running amateur scouting, MacGregor had Top 10 overall picks. Three of those picks were first overall selections, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov, with MacGregor and his scouts famously being over-ruled by management on their wish to draft Ryan Murray over Yakupov (but it’s not like Murray has smoked the NHL either). MacGregor’s team can boast of drafting Leon Draisaitl fourth overall in 2014 and Darnell Nurse 7th overall in 2017, but it flopped taking Magnus Paajarvi 10th overall in 2009. With the Yakupov/Murray and Paajarvi failures, it’s hard to give MacGregor a pass here, but I can’t fail him either, given the success of Hall, RNH, Nurse and Draisaitl. He’s in the grey zone on this one, even as the Yakupov/Murray fiasco stinks things up.
Did the scouts find at least one Big 12 player on average each year of the draft? Yes, the team found at least seven such players, but it also had six Top 10 picks and three first overall, so it’s hard to get too excited about MacGregor passing in this category.
Did the scouts identify at least one Team Canada-quality player every four years in the draft? Hall, Draisaitl and RNH are all Team Canada-quality, and Erik Gustafsson in Chicago is trending that way. So a solid pass here, even if Hall and Gustasson are no longer OIlers.
Did the scouts draft a Big 12 player outside of the first round every second year? Here is where things get painful. Here is where MacGregor failed miserably. In his seven drafts, he found just one player, Gustafsson, outside the first round who became a Big 12 players. MacGregor completely missed with numerous first, second and third round picks including Yakupov, Paajarvi, Anton Lander, Troy Hesketh, Cameron Abney, Curtis Hamilton, Ryan Martindale, David Musil, Samu Perhonen, Travis Ewanyk, Mitch Moroz, Danil Zharkov, Marco Roy, Bogdan Yakimov, Anton Slepyshev. There’s still a chance that William Lagesson will become a Big 12 player, but overall MacGregor’s record when it comes to finding late round gems is atrocious.

Anton Lander of the Edmonton Oilers puts on a team jersey handed to him from Stu MacGregor BRUCE BENNETT / GETTY IMAGES

In total, given the first round picks he had to work with, MacGregor didn’t come close to succeeding. He had two strong picks with Jordan Eberle and Oscar Klefbom, and he made the right calls on Draisaitl and Nurse, but that’s the best you can say about his seven years. The lack of prospect depth created then has only been now been addressed to some extent by Bob Green and Keith Gretzky. It’s a big reason why the early years of the McDavid era were unsuccessful.

Indeed, outside of Fraser’s five wretched years in the draft from 1986-1990, the MacGregor era is the worst in Edmonton’s history.

It’s still early days for rating Green and Gretzky, but they have almost certainly done a much better job than MacGregor and Prendergast did. They haven’t yet succeeded in the way that Barry Fraser did for a short time but things are trending well, as Henderson suggests, with about 16 players in their five drafts having a decent chance to become Big 12 players.

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The Boston Bruins have invited veteran defenseman Mark Fayne to training camp on what appears to be a professional tryout.

Waived by the Oilers after failing to live up to the final two seasons of his $3.625 million per year contract, the 31-year-old Fayne comes to Boston after spending the last two seasons toiling in the American Hockey League between the Bakersfield Condors and Springfield Thunderbirds. Officially loaned to the Thunderbirds early in the 2017-18 season, it was with the Thunderbirds that the Nashua, N.H. native posted three goals and five points with a minus-10 rating in 39 games.

Before his two-year demotion to the minors, Fayne skated in four NHL games for the Oilers in 2016-17, with two assists. He also played a staggeringly low 31:40 of total time on ice over that span, and had two games with less than 4:35 of time on ice. Before he became another victim of the Oilers’ dysfunction and habitually reckless spending on middle-of-the-road talent, Fayne’s best year undoubtedly came in 2011-12, when he established a career-high in points (17) with the Devils and skated in 24 postseason contests in New Jersey’s unlikely run to the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals against the Los Angeles Kings.

A veteran of 389 NHL games between the Devils and Oilers, Fayne arrives to camp with 17 goals and 65 points in his pro career.

Given Boston’s current logjam of NHL-quality defenders, Fayne likely comes to the Bruins with the hopes of latching on with the hometown club on an AHL contract. It’s in Providence where the 6-foot-3 defender could skate in a depth/leadership role given the P-Bruins’ influx of youth, as well as the departure of longtime P-Bruins captain Tommy Cross.

In the now, though, Fayne will be part of the Black and Gold’s ‘domestic’ group, which will remain stateside while the other group of Bruins regulars and hopefuls begin their preseason with the 2018 O.R.G. NHL China Games.

Ty Anderson is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Ty? Follow him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.