Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Pool Outlook for Edmonton

The narrative in Edmonton remained the same in 2019... some top end talent in the entire league, some reasonably high expectations and the eventual belly flop into mediocrity.

The Oilers had a coaching change after a slow start to their year, which resulted in an increase of hope in and around the end of November and December, but the team reverted back to what it was earlier and it cost the General Manager his job and then it was a struggle through the rest of the season, somehow maintaining some hope into the New Year and it was an arduous stretch to the end of the regular season.

At the trade deadline, all they could do was rid themselves of a goalie, trying to lessen the controversy of the number one goalie on the club and right the ship in time for a big push, but it didn't work.

The Oilers were not short on top end talent again this year and for the first time since the 1990 season, did a team finish with two 100-point players on their roster and fail to make the playoffs.  One of those 100-point players was even a 50-goal scorer this year for the Oilers and they still couldn't win games and realize some of their potential.  Their depth and defense let them down once again and trying to improve upon those are going to run into some heavy cap barriers, but that will be the job of the new GM, whenever he gets hired.

It was year number four for Connor McDavid in an Oilers uniform and it was his 3rd 100-point season of his career, finishing with 41 goals and 116 points in 78 games this season, good enough for 2nd in the league and hockey pool in scoring this season.and now it's back-to-back seasons without a playoff appearance.  This does have the talking heads of the media questioning his patience level with this organization, but it still sounds like he's committed to being there.  Either way, in Edmonton or not, he's a dominating force for us poolies to cling on to.

Last season, since I have those windows open, the Oilers had 10 players worthy of a hockey pool selection and a true testament to their depth in the 2019 season, they only finished with seven, including McDavid.  Leon Draisaitl was the other big performer in the season, finishing with 50 goals and 105 points, but then Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was next on the list at 69 points.  Alex Chiasson rounded out the worthy forwards, while Darnell Nurse and Oskar Klefbom were the only defensemen worthy and Mikko Koskinen was left to be the number one guy and he played (and won) enough to be worthy by season's end.

What I Said Last Year, At This Time...

The Oilers need to be faster and harder to play against. The Pacific Division is full of fast teams that work extra hard and in this new era of the Golden Knights, the Oilers do not keep up. Connor McDavid needs some help on his line, so he's not doing it all by himself and the Oilers need more depth, so they don't lean so heavily on their superstar. The Oilers will be busy in this off-season, they have to be. Is there enough out there to make it work for the Oilers? Not in the free agent pool, at least. The Oilers will have to make some more trades and if they can pull off a good one, two or three deals, then we'll talk about the playoffs.

The Oilers didn't get faster, they provided little help to their franchise player, didn't add any quality depth and with all of that, they didn't make the playoffs.  It was plain and simple here.  What they didn't do was very apparent and the result was very much of the same as it has been in years previous.  I haven't gotten down to the bottom of this page in the writing scheme, but I can assure you, it's probably going to be very much the same again this year.

How did my intriguing or breakout player fare?

Maybe Matt Benning isn't the player that I thought he was or maybe the team he's on has limited his ability to flourish as an offensive defenseman?  I don't think I can say definitively, one way or the other, but 17 points in 70 games and a healthy scratch at times this past season was an indication that he wasn't buying in to what the Oilers were selling as a whole and that may have gone for a number of players on this team.  Either way, he was also a disappointment this season.

2020 Pool Outlook

Forwards Cap Defense Cap Goalies Cap
Connor McDavid 12.500 Andrej Sekera 5.500 Mikko Koskinen 4.500
Leon Draisaitl 8.500 Oscar Klefbom 4.167 Stuart Skinner 0.784
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 6.000 Adam Larsson 4.167
Milan Lucic 6.000 Kris Russell 4.000
Sam Gagner 3.150 Darnell Nurse 3.200
Zack Kassian 1.950 Brandon Manning 2.250
Kyle Brodziak 1.150 Matt Benning 1.900
Josh Currie 0.688
Colby Cave 0.675
Kailer Yamamoto 0.894
Tyler Benson 0.808

Looking ahead at 2019, the Oilers still have a goalie that will play a lot, their two pool worthy defensemen and three out of four worthy forwards.  This isn't a great sign and probably what makes things worse is that they have all seven defensemen signed on for another season (at least), which suggests that defense may not be getting any better, even if it is only on paper right now.  The Oilers are not showing a lot of promise at the moment, so the outlook is rather bleak.

Free Agency and the Salary Cap

The salary cap will be an issue with some large contracts on that table above that don't have green names right beside them.  That means that they were not getting good value for the cap space taken up and against a potential $83 million cap ceiling, that 20-man roster above only leaves $8.6 million in cap space, which isn't enough to fix the issues at hand.  This summer may be more about trades than free agency, but that's another story altogether.

Alex Chiasson is the only pool worthy player on the list destined for free agency and he'll be an unrestricted free agent in July, along with a number of other underachievers.  None of the team's restricted free agents were worthy, but there are some notable names like Jesse Puljujarvi on that list, so some decisions will have to be made there.

The Oilers' best prospect in their pool is a defenseman and until they can clear up a spot for Evan Bouchard, he won't exactly be one to watch just yet.  They will need Kailer Yamamoto to finally step up and be a secondary scorer this season to help the team move forward in their attempts at the playoffs.  Yamamoto has lost his rookie eligibility after a couple of seasons of more than enough games, so as he enters his second full season as a pro, he will need his creative abilities to rise up to the forefront and the management team and coaches will have to find someone for him to play with.  He's definitely the one to watch today.

Needs at the 2019 Entry Draft

Teams that have spent a lot of drafts eyeing up and selecting top defensemen have done well in recent years, Nashville is a pretty good example of that.  The Oilers are in desperate need of a change in philosophy and there's hope that a new GM can bring that in for them.  If I'm installed as their GM, I'm looking for a top end defenseman again this year and will keep doing so, trying to develop a blueline factory and turn it all into asset gold.  This year, I'm looking at Cam York from the US Development Program, who will play for the Americans at the Under-18 tourney and is set for Michigan in the NCAA ranks.  He may not be tomorrow's answer to fix this team, but he looks like he has the size and the numbers to be a good investment for the future.

The fate of the Oilers in 2020 rests solely on the poor sonofabitch that take the job as the team's GM this summer.  This team needs someone who is bold and has his own direction and he'll be tasked with making hard decisions that may not have an immediate pay off, much to the chagrin of their fan base.  The way this team sits right now, they're not in line to make the playoffs, teams around them are better and improving, while this roster has very few directions to go.  If a new GM comes in and makes some sweeping changes, he'll likely have to pay extra for them, which may write-off the 2020 season for the sake of a better 2021, which is increasingly difficult in a Canadian market, which doesn't measure success against expectation, rather the wins and losses of today.  If they can find a GM that makes sweeping changes and still wants this job at this time next year, I would consider that a win.

No comments: