GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 31: Head coach Dallas Eakins of the Edmonton Oilers during the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena on December 31, 2013 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Oilers 4-3 in overtime. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

After eight straight missed playoffs, Oilers hire ‘biggest critic’

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Tyler Dellow can be abrasive. He can be caustic. He can, frankly, be kind of a jerk. (Don’t worry, he’s been called worse.) Which is why there will be no shortage of people, many of them in the media, who hope he falls flat on his face in his new role with the Edmonton Oilers.

Dellow — described by the Globe and Mail as “a Toronto-based lawyer turned amateur statistician who had become the organization’s biggest critic over its eight consecutive playoff-less seasons” — has joined the Oilers to be their go-to guy in the burgeoning field of analytics.

You might already know Dellow from his Twitter handle, @mc79hockey, or from his since-shuttered blog, each of which he used to lambaste those in the Oilers organization, as well as those who covered the team.

“I heard through the grapevine [during the year] he was being highly critical of our team,” Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins told the Globe this week.

“That didn’t bother me. I’m like, ‘How can he not be highly critical of our team? We’re in 28th place.’ So of course he was.”

One popular joke is that the Oilers only hired Dellow to shut him up. Consider two of his latest tweets:

https://twitter.com/mc79hockey/status/499663717983059968

https://twitter.com/mc79hockey/status/499664663416938496

And yes, he often projects a rather high opinion of himself. However, that doesn’t mean his analysis is inaccurate, or that he can’t help the Oilers.

It’s worth noting that two of Edmonton’s newest players, Benoit Pouliot and Mark Fayne, had excellent possession numbers with the Rangers and Devils, respectively. (See: here and here). Did Dellow have a hand in those signings? It’s possible. (Just as it’s possible Kyle Dubas in Toronto had a hand in the Maple Leafs signing David Booth and Daniel Winnik.)

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Back in May, it was reported that the NHL was planning to “test new technology to track players in action and produce a vast new array of information,” and that a new system could be in place for 2015-16.

Well, once that flood of data starts, teams are going to need people who can identify what’s relevant and what’s just noise. The Oilers see Dellow as that kind of person.

“He’s sharp,” said Eakins. “He’s more than the one-trick Corsi wonder. He understands everything fully. We think there’s going to be a great opportunity to look at our team in a number of different ways that Tyler can help us.”

Even if he’s kind of a jerk sometimes.

Video: Incredibly awkward ceremonial puck drop before KHL game in China

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KHL hockey is still relatively new in China and it showed prior to Kunlun Red Star’s game against Lada Togliatti earlier this week.

Prior to the game, the team organized a ceremonial puck drop, which ended up being a little awkward to say the least.

You can watch the entire thing by clicking the video at the top of the page.

That’s pretty funny!

The awkward look the two captains gave each other was priceless too.

After suffering ‘a bruise on his backside’ on Friday, Dmitry Kulikov misses practice

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Even though it’s just the preseason, the Sabres had a night to forget on Friday.

Not only did they get clobbered 8-1 by the Toronto Maple Leafs, but they also lost Dmitry Kulikov to injury.

Kulikov left the game in considerable pain after being hit by Colin Greening in the third period. As the Sabres defenseman went into the boards, the door to the Leafs bench opened.

Here’s how it looked:

After the game, head coach Dan Bylsma downplayed the injury.

“He’s got a bruise on his backside, but at this point in time it’s not more than a bruise,” Bylsma said, per the Buffalo News.

According to beat reporter John Vogl, Kulikov wasn’t on the ice for his team’s practice this morning.

It’s still unclear how long he’ll be out exactly. It’s good to know that the Sabres don’t appear to be overly worried about this injury though.

It’s an important year for 25-year-old. He’s entering his first year with the Sabres, but he’ll be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

Patrick Kane, Erik Karlsson, P.K. Subban to make preseason debuts on Saturday

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 15:  Patrick Kane #88 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrates after scoring a goal in the third period against the Tampa Bay Lightning during Game Six of the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the United Center  on June 15, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The deeper we get into the preseason, the more we’ll see star players being integrated into their team’s lineups.

On Saturday, three big names will make their 2016-17 debuts with their respective teams.

After a stint at the World Cup with Team USA, Patrick Kane will be in Chicago’s lineup for their game against the St. Louis Blues.

Kane and the Americans had a disappointing tournament, as he failed to score a goal and the team failed to win a round-robin game.

Erik Karlsson, who was at the World Cup with Team Sweden, will also play his first exhibition of the season, as the Senators take on the Canadiens this afternoon.

Sens head coach Guy Boucher wasn’t planning on playing his captain this early, but Karlsson changed his mind.

“I was thinking of maybe giving him a break and then taking him on the trip (to Winnipeg and Saskatoon) next week,” Boucher told the Ottawa Citizen. “He had two hard practices. I was impressed by his leadership. He wanted to be playing in front of our fans.”

Finally, P.K. Subban will make his Preds debut against the Lightning.

Subban was acquired from the Montreal Canadiens for Shea Weber this off-season, but he was held out of games because of general soreness.

It sounds like Subban will play on a pairing with Mattias Ekholm.

“It’s great having a partner like that,” Subban said, per the Tennessean. “I’ve had some great partners in the past, but he’s definitely right up there with the best that I’ve played with. I’m not sure exactly what the partners are going to be come the regular season. Those things can switch, but I’m happy to be playing with him.”

Blackhawks’ Rozsival doesn’t know ‘what my role is’ this season

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 20: Michal Rozsival #32 of the Chicago Blackhawks passes against the San Jose Sharks at the United Center on December 20, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Sharks 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival has overcome a lot in his NHL career, but even he isn’t sure where he fits in Chicago’s plans this season.

After suffering a serious ankle injury in the 2015 playoffs, Rozsival returned to the ice last season where he skated in 51 games with the ‘Hawks.

The 38-year-old dressed for the first four games of his team’s opening round playoff series against St. Louis before being a healthy scratch in the final three games.

During the off-season, he signed a one-year, $600,000 contract to remain with the club.

“After last season I had no indications or expectations that I would be back or not,” Rozsival said, per the Chicago Tribune. “So I’m happy to be back.

“Right now, I still don’t know what my role is. It might be determined by the way I play. The last four years I’ve played 20 games, I’ve played 30 games and I’ve played 50 games. I’m ready for anything and for any kind of role. Obviously, I would love to be playing. I’m always trying to fight for my ice time.”

Getting into the lineup won’t be easy. The ‘Hawks already have standouts Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson and they added free agent Brian Campbell during the summer. Add Trevor van Riemsdyk (he’s on a one-way deal) and European free agent Michal Kempny and it looks like finding minutes for Rozsival won’t be easy.

They also have younger options like Erik Gustafsson and Viktor Svedberg looking to make an impact at the NHL level.

“I think Michal played great hockey last year,” GM Stan Bowman said. “If anything, we probably played him too much. Michal is at the top of his game when we can give him some time to re-cooperate between games. He still has a lot of hockey left in him.”