Edmonton Oilers fans might be going overboard with Taylor Hall expectations

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for taylorhall.jpgIn the pre-lockout years, players such as Ilya Kovalchuk and Joe Thornton took a little while to hit their point producing primes. Yet since the lockout forced NHL bigwigs to let the speedy and skilled loose, the learning curve for young players almost seems more like a straight line.

The near-to-immediate success of the Sidney Crosby/Patrick Kane/Alex Ovechkin-type top picks makes it pretty difficult for any 18-year-old who may go first in subsequent drafts. Fans of the Edmonton Oilers and New York Islanders might not want to hear it, but not every No. 1 pick is created equal.

Oilers blog Copper & Blue projects Taylor Hall to be a productive winger in the NHL, but they want to temper the pie-in-the-sky prognostications of 40 goal/90-to-100 point seasons.

What I find hilarious about the people that are already set to judge Hall strictly by his boxcar numbers is that Jonathan Toews, a player that every single team in the league would love to have, and every single fan in Edmonton would love to see Hall emulate has never come close to this magical ninety point plateau. Toews’ point totals over the last three years: 54-69-68, yet he’s a Stanley Cup champion, an Olympic hero and is widely considered to be one of the best forwards in the game.

So listen to me all of you crazy people out there: your silly boxcar-only projections and lofty expectations are short-sighted and incredibly difficult to reach, even for the best players in the NHL. Taylor Hall can become an outstanding, even great, NHL player without hitting your preconceived superstar points totals.

The good news is that the Oilers have a few building blocks beyond Hall. While Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson might be overrated in some circles, combining those two prospects with Hall, hobbled playmaker Ales Hemsky and the somewhat-resurgent Dustin Penner gives the Oilers solid firepower going forward. That being said, the Western Conference is competitive from top to bottom, so Edmonton fans might want to take it easy on Hall, in particular.

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    Report: Coyotes to talk to Todd Nelson about coaching vacancy

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    The Arizona Coyotes had a somewhat unexpected shakeup this past week when the team and long-time head coach Dave Tippett mutually agreed to part ways after nine seasons together.

    The search for a replacement began immediately and according to Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal the Coyotes will be speaking to former Oilers coach Todd Nelson about the vacancy.

    Nelson spent 51 games behind the Oilers bench during the 2014-15 season replacing Dallas Eakins. Nelson was replaced at the conclusion of that season by former San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan. While his NHL head coaching experience is limited to that brief time in Edmonton, he has an extensive track record in the American Hockey League with the Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton’s top farm team) and currently the Grand Rapids Griffins (the Detroit Red Wings’ top farm team).

    He has spent the past two seasons in Grand Rapids — replacing Jeff Blashill after he was promoted to the Detroit job — and has had a ton of success, leading the team to the Calder Cup this past season.

    Predators won’t trade defense for forward help

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    After losing James Neal to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft this past week the Nashville Predators have a pretty glaring hole in their top-six that is going to need to be addressed. Along with that, captain Mike Fisher is an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and is also considering retirement.

    Because of those two developments general manager David Poile has made adding a top-six forward a priority for this summer, and he certainly has the salary cap space to get something done.

    One thing he is not going to do, however, is trade one of his defensemen to find that help up front.

    “We’ve traded enough defensemen in my recent history,” Poile said on Saturday, via the Tennessean. “I think everybody would be pretty much on the same page that our defense drives our team and our corps is as good as any in the league. We will not be touching our defense in the near future here.”

    Over the past two years Poile has traded Shea Weber and Seth Jones off of his blue line but has still managed to assemble the NHL’s best defense. The quartet of P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm is so good that Poile made sure to protect all four of them in the expansion draft and leave Neal — a consistent 25-to 30-goal scorer signed for one more year on a pretty good contract — exposed for Vegas to take.

    Without dealing one of their top-four defensemen it might be difficult to find an impact winger via the trade route, which might force them to turn to the free agent market.

    But even that is going to be difficult because it is such a limited market. Now that T.J. Oshie has re-signed with the Washington Capitals Alexander Radulov would probably be the top winger available, but given his history with Nashville there is virtually no chance of that reunion happening. Justin Williams would be an intriguing veteran option, while Joe Thornton could help fill the void at center if Fisher does not return.

    Still, not trading from the defense is the absolute right path for Poile and the Predators to take. Not only is that group the backbone of the Predators’ organization and one of the driving forces behind its success, it is also an extremely young group that is all signed long-term on cap friendly deals.

    Even with the loss of Neal Nashville still has a deep group of forwards, while youngsters Pontus Aberg and Kevin Fiala could get an increased role and an opportunity to shine.

     

    Rangers GM ‘open to anything’ on new Zibanejad contract

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    Along with working to fix his team’s defense, the big issue at hand for New York Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton this offseason is coming to terms with restricted free agents Jesper Fast and Mika Zibanejad.

    Following the NHL draft on Saturday, Gorton was asked where things stand in those talks and he said he was hoping to get something done “rather soon.”

    What those contracts will look like, however, seems to be a bit of a mystery and Gorton doesn’t seem to have his mind set on any particular structure as far as it being long-term or a bridge deal.

    “We’re open to anything as far as Mika. We want to make a good deal.” Gorton said (via the Daily News).

    “It could be short-term, it could be long-term. We’re wide open.”

    The Rangers acquired the 24-year-old Zibanejad before the 2016-17 season in the trade that sent Derick Brassard to the Ottawa Senators.

    His first year on Broadway was mostly a success when he was healthy, scoring 14 goals and adding 23 assists in 56 games. That point per game average would have put him on a 54-point pace over 82 games which would have been a new career high. Zibanejad is just now entering what should be his peak years in the NHL and he’s already proven that he can be penciled in for 20 goals and 50 points every year (he’s been close to the pace for three straight years now). Given that there were only 69 forwards in the NHL that topped both 20 goals and 50 points this past season, that is easily first-or second-line production and a valuable asset.

    Following the buyout of defenseman Dan Girardi and the trade of forward Derek Stepan to the Arizona Coyotes the Rangers were able to clear out a significant amount of cap space over the past couple of weeks and currently have more than $20 million in cap space with 17 players under contract for this season. That should not only give them more than enough space to re-sign Zibanejad and Fast, but also perhaps take a run at a free agent like defenseman like Kevin Shattenkirk. They only have eight players under contract for next season.

    NHL teams can begin talking to pending free agents today

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    After completing the NHL draft on Saturday the offseason rolls on for the league’s 31 teams on Sunday.

    That is the day pending free agents can begin talking to teams around the league to gauge their potential interest in one another. Obviously no contracts can be signed until July 1, and technically there is to be no discussion of contract terms, but the window is open for discussions to begin.

    T.J. Oshie re-signing with the Washington Capitals on Friday already removed one of the big-ticket players from the market. But several of his teammates will be available, including forwards Justin Williams and Daniel Winnik and defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk and Karl Alzner.

    Shattenkirk is probably the top free agent available on the market and headlines a weak group of defensemen. He is expected to draw heavy interest from the New York Rangers as they look to reshape their defense.

    Up front there is Alexander Radulov if the Montreal Canadiens are unable to come to terms on a new contract with him, while it could be the end of an era in San Jose as Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are eligible for UFA status on July 1.