Getty

How much has the Hall-Larsson trade helped Edmonton?

13 Comments

During one 60-minute stretch back in late June the NHL briefly went crazy with a flurry of blockbuster moves that included the P.K. SubbanShea Weber trade, Steven Stamkos re-signing with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Edmonton Oilers finally going through with a trade involving one of their core players (Taylor Hall) to the New Jersey Devils in an effort to solidify their defense by acquiring Adam Larsson in a one-for-one swap.

On Saturday night in New Jersey, the Devils and Oilers meet for the first time since that blockbuster trade and they will meet again in Edmonton a week later. That means it is now a good time to look back at that trade and see how it is working out for both teams. So let’s do that.

In the immediate aftermath of the trade it was largely viewed as a major win for the Devils. Hall was a top-line player — and just the type of player the Devils needed — while Larsson was simply a solid defenseman that probably fit in better as a second-pairing guy on a contending team.

Now that the 2016-17 season is half over, perception of the deal has shifted a bit, at least when it comes to the Oilers’ return because of how well the team has played this season.

Entering play on Saturday the Oilers are the owners of a 20-13-7 record and have a pretty strong hold on a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

The Devils, meanwhile, are still six points out of a wild card spot in the East with six teams ahead of them.  Coming out of that to earn a playoff spot seems like a real long shot at this point even as Hall scores at would be a 70-point pace over 82 games.

Based on the success of the two teams, it would be easy to chalk the trade up as an easy win and shrewd move for the Oilers that has helped drastically change their fortune on the ice. Especially as the Oilers have seen an improvement in their overall defensive performance go from complete dumpster fire to middle of the pack NHL team this season.

It would also be a bit unfair and misleading, and a good example as to why team success isn’t necessarily the best way to evaluate a trade.

Larsson is a good player, and the Oilers are no doubt happy to have him. But do you know who else is a really good player? Taylor Hall. A possession-driving forward that is still among one of the top-30 most productive players in the NHL.

So why have the Oilers been able to turn it around this season with Larsson while the Devils remain stuck in mediocrity?

It basically comes down to this: The Oilers have Connor McDavid, and the New Jersey Devils do not.

That is what has sparked the turnaround for the Oilers. Playing in just his second season in the league — and what should be his first full season, barring an injury in the second half — McDavid is already one of the two best players in hockey and has had a profound impact on the Oilers’ success. He is in now in a back-and-forth race with Pittsburgh Penguins teammates Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for the NHL’s scoring title, while the Oilers play like a top playoff team when he is on the ice. They control more than 55 percent of the shot attempts during 5-on-5 play and outscore their opponents by a 34-21 margin (that is more than 62 percent of the goals).

When McDavid is not on the ice, the Oilers play like … well … the Oilers team we have come to expect. Their share of the shot attempts drops down to only 47.9 percent while they actually get outscored by a 41-48 margin. The difference is night and day.

There is no question that Larsson has been a solid addition to the Oilers’ blue line and an upgrade over what the team had been trotting out there over the past five or six years. But he hasn’t been so great that it has sparked this sort of one-year turnaround for the team. Especially when you look at his actual contributions. For example, when it comes to limiting shots and keeping pucks out of the net Larsson currently ranks sixth out of the eight Oilers defensemen (minimum 50 minutes of ice time) in goals against per 60 minutes (2.58) and total shot attempts against (55.20), and he isn’t a huge contributor offensively (only six points in 40 games).

Granted, those numbers are still better than what a lot of Oilers defensemen were able to put up in recent seasons. Heck, just last season the only two defensemen that played in Edmonton that posted better numbers in both categories were Brandon Davidson and Jordan Oesterle … and Oesterle only played in 17 games. But it is not the type of defensive performance that turns a team around.

Plus, there are a lot of other factors that go into the Oilers’ improved defensive play beyond just the addition of Larsson.

Andrej Sekera has been better in his second year with the team. Oscar Klefbom (only played in 30 games a season ago) is healthy and has taken a huge step forward in his development. Kris Russell might be a polarizing player in the eye test vs. analytics debate, but he is at the very least serviceable NHL defenseman that is better than a lot of players the Oilers relied on last season. And that does not even get into the fact Cam Talbot has given them better than league average play in net while playing in almost every game this season.

All of that has played a role in the Oilers’ improvement.

But nothing has played a bigger role than McDavid turning into hockey Superman. That is the source of most of your turnaround, Edmonton.

Hall and Larsson — as well as the success of their two teams — are going to be compared against one another for as long as they both play in the NHL because of the trade that sent them to their current teams.

Individually, Hall is still the better player. But the Larsson side of the trade is looking like a winner because his team is playing better — and it’s mostly due to a player that isn’t Adam Larsson.

The Buzzer: Celebrating genius of McDavid, Bergeron, Karlsson

Getty
Leave a comment

Player of the Night: Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins

Nico Hischier collected two goals and an assist in a blistering effort as the Devils beat the Senators in overtime. Erik Karlsson almost ruined things for New Jersey with three assists. Andrei Vasilevskiy pitched an impressive 43-save shutout as the Lightning edged the Blue Jackets. Ben Bishop narrowly kept Clayton Keller and Derek Stepan from even bigger nights, yet each player scored two goals and one assist apiece in a slim Stars win vs. the Coyotes.

Even Bergeron’s teammates made some waves.

There were great choices for player of the night, but ultimately, Bergeron’s return to the Bruins lineup stands tallest. He scored a goal and three assists, soothing injury-bummed Bruins fans as part of Boston’s victory against Vancouver.

Bergeron didn’t ease right in. He won half of his draws, fired six shots on goal, and almost logged 21 minutes of ice time. Maybe he can hold things together for Boston?

Highlight of the Night: Connor McDavid‘s ridiculous assist

This post goes into greater detail on that and Edmonton’s win, so we’ll just stick this GIF in here because you need to see it either way:

OK, but to avoid an overly redundant buzzer, check Hischier here, David Pastrnak‘s great goal, and Mikhail Sergachev‘s big night. And, as a bonus, Will Butcher must have nodded to Karlsson after sending this ridiculous outlet pass:

Outstanding.

You know what? Enjoy Bishop robbing Derek Stepan as a bonus bonus.

Misc.

Click here for Erik Gudbranson‘s hit and fight. Zack Kassian‘s hit on Ryan Hartman is mentioned there, but just in case you missed it, here it is one more time:

Factoids of the night

Pekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators continued their hot streak by blanking the Flyers. Rinne enjoys a milestone moment:

Two impressive bits regarding how dominant McDavid and Karlsson have been:

Scores and more

Bruins 6, Canucks 3 (more)

Devils 5, Senators 4 [OT] (more)

Islanders 4, Rangers 3 [SO]

Predators 1, Flyers 0

Lightning 2, Blue Jackets 0 (more)

Oilers 2, Blackhawks 1 [OT] (more)

Blues 4, Avalanche 3

Hurricanes 2, Flames 1

Stars 5, Coyotes 4

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

MORE FROM NHL ON NBC SPORTS:

Should Erik Gudbranson get suspended for boarding Frank Vatrano?

8 Comments

The Boston Bruins power play made Erik Gudbranson and the Vancouver Canucks pay with three goals during the major for his hit on Frank Vatrano, but the NHL might decide to go further.

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety confirmed that Gudbranson, 25, will receive a Friday hearing for the boarding check. The league tends to be vague about this, but Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that it’s expected to being an interview over the phone, rather than the in-person variety that can bring about harsher punishments.

Vatrano returned to the Bruins’ eventual 6-3 win against the Canucks, yet there’s a chance that he might have a setback. (Knowing Boston’s recent luck, don’t count on good news until you see it.)

Watch the video and Gudbranson’s fight with Tim Schaller in the video above, via Hockey Fights.

Fans responded to that announcement by pointing out one of Thursday’s other questionable hits: Zack Kassian on Ryan Hartman, which only drew a minor penalty:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

MORE FROM NHL ON NBC SPORTS:

McDavid dazzles again, Oilers break slump with OT win vs. Blackhawks

Getty
9 Comments

Update: The Edmonton Oilers ended up needing every bit of Connor McDavid‘s brilliance, as goals weren’t coming easily against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night.

(Even though, as you can see with that highlight-reel assist, McDavid often makes it look easy.)

McDavid also managed a secondary assist on Mark Letestu‘s overtime-winner, ending the Edmonton Oilers’ losing streak at four games. The Blackhawks continue to be resourceful in getting standings points, in this case falling 2-1 in OT.

Anton Forsberg made 40 of 42 saves, but it wasn’t enough against a driven group led by number 97.

Here’s the OT goal.

If you haven’t seen the more amazing of McDavid’s two helpers, do yourself a favor and check it out. You won’t regret it.

***

Connor McDavid’s speed and skill are glorious, but the thing that makes him extra-sensational is just how unstoppable he seems. Even against some of the NHL’s best.

To start the season, McDavid made very-solid Calgary Flames defenseman T.J. Brodie look downright permeable during the most impressive goal in his opening-night hat trick.

If that wasn’t impressive enough, the superstar tore through the Chicago Blackhawks – including certain future Hall of Famer Duncan Keith – and then sent absolutely obscene pass to Patrick Maroon for an easy goal.

You know how people used to say that a fire hydrant could score 50 goals with Mario Lemieux? We might need to bump that down to 30 for modern hockey, but either way, Maroon might laugh uncomfortably at such jokes.

If you prefer your jaw-droppers in GIF form, drop away:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

MORE FROM NHL ON NBC SPORTS:

Bergeron bombastic in return, but Bruins lose Krejci to injury

Getty
2 Comments

The roller coaster isn’t slowing down for the Boston Bruins.

With Tuukka Rask‘s concussion looming over the proceedings, the Bruins gave fans some reason to celebrate; Patrice Bergeron scored a goal and three assists in an impressive 6-3 output by the B’s top guns against the overmatched Vancouver Canucks.

Even Anders Bjork enjoyed some measure of redemption after bowling over Rask in practice, as the young player scored two goals and an assist despite being limited to 12:29 TOI.

Other big guns like Brad Marchand did their increasingly reliable damage, with David Pastrnak probably providing the most exhilarating goal of the contest:

Yeah, that might get some attention from Canucks coach Travis Green in film sessions, assuming he doesn’t just burn the tape.

Bergeron broke down his night to Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy after the game:

The Bruins really made Erik Gudbranson and the Canucks pay for boarding Frank Vatrano, as they scored three power-play goals on the major penalty. Vatrano’s another health situation to watch, although it’s heartening that he returned during the game.

MORE: Gudbranson faces hearing for hit

***

So … solid stuff overall, as the Bruins provided ample evidence that they might have the weapons to scrap through all this bad luck.

Then again, if opponents can slow the top-end guys, you wonder what kind of supporting cast the Bruins will have left through this run of attrition. David Krejci is the latest name to land on Boston’s troubling list of walking wounded.

Here’s hoping that it isn’t a big issue for a veteran center who’s dealt with nagging injuries in recent years.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

MORE FROM NHL ON NBC SPORTS: