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This in from the Edmonton Oilers: “The Oilers have recalled defenceman Caleb Jones from the Condors while also assigning defenceman Joel Persson.”
The Jones/Persson situation has become a head scratcher. I understood it when Joel Persson was first sent down to the AHL. He had struggled in Edmonton, looked like his confidence was iffy, if not shot, and needed a change of scenery, say one or two or three months in the AHL to adjust to the North American game. And he did well in Bakersfield, putting up five points in six games, +2 on goals plus-minus. In Edmonton, Jones struggled in the Top 4 with Oscar Klefbom, but he was at least as good as Persson had been and looked like he’d be fine on the third pairing. He was hanging in there on his nine-game stint. So why send down Jones and recall Persson, as the Oilers did on Dec. 4, just five days ago? I never really understood the thinking behind that change.
In his three games with Edmonton, Persson did OK-ish. In his first game back against Ottawa, the Cult’s Kurt Leavins gave Persson a five out of ten, noting, “One of the few bright spots on the night was that play of Persson which was calmer and more collected than prior to his demotion to Bakersfield a few weeks back. 2 shots and even in 16:17 of a 5-2 loss. Reasonable steps on the road back one would hope.” Against Los Angeles on Friday, I had him as a six out of ten: “Struggled early with the puck, making a giveaway leading to some L.A. o-zone time. He settled down and moved the puck with more alacrity in the second.” Against Buffalo on Sunday, Leavins gave him a five out of 10 grade, writing: “High-event effort. While the puck often headed in the right direction on his watch CF 14-8, 63%), when it didn’t…there were issues. He failed to box out his man in front on the 1-0. Fed Riley Sheahan for a very good chance early in the 2nd. Continues to struggle against the cycle, chased the play badly in the 2nd Period until finally taking a hooking minor that his teammates had to kill off. A 3rd Period giveaway.”
So Persson had three passing grades in a row. Why change your mind on him and on Jones again just now? Persson looked like he was doing OK with Klefbom in the Top 4. I don’t get it. Seemingly there’s little to choose from between the players, so why constantly shuffle them around and upset their apple carts? This doesn’t seem to align with GM Ken Holland’s “steady as she goes” philosophy.
I can’t read Holland’s mind, and I’m no insider, but could it be that the Oilers are showcasing Jones for a trade? Is that a possibility? That’s pure speculation on my part.
Coach Dave Tippett said that with heavy games coming up, Jones would give the team more skating and a bit better defending.
All that said, if I had to pick the player who will help the Oilers win now and in the future, I’d go with Jones over Persson. So I get favouring Jones over Persson, I just don’t get the yo-yo aspect of this.
As for new lines and d-man combos, Jack Michaels of the Oilers reported: “Oiler practice lines— Nygard-McDavid-Kassian, Khaira-RNH-Draisaitl, Neal-Haas-P. Russell, Granlund-Sheahan-Archibald, Nurse-Bear Klefbom-Larsson, Russell-Manning (Jones recalled), Koskinen looks to be starting vs Canes.”
It’s good to see Nygard get a chance on a top line. He needs a run of four or five games there to see if can stick. He’s got the skill and battle but can he execute? I like his chances. As for McDavid, he’s flying so high right now (give or take the odd grievous fly-by in OT) that he can get the job done at even strength with almost any winger on the Oilers. But I like the thought of him playing with a winger in Nygard who is almost as fast as he is.
I liked Jujhar Khaira and Leon Draisaitl together against Los Angeles. They were a heavy load on the forecheck. I suspect they could make some noise with a skill player like RNH.
Also good to see the Oilers going back to Koskinen, as opposed to giving Mike Smith two in a row. Koskinen is clearly the better goalie at this point and should get two out of three games until Smith turns around his game.